Education & Family

Cuts hitting poor children hardest, MPs say

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Image caption Child poverty should be regarded as a breach of human rights, the committee said

Government cuts have disproportionately affected disadvantaged children, a cross-party committee of MPs has said.

The government should have monitored the impact more closely and needed to work harder to reduce the effects, the Joint Committee on Human Rights said.

It said the coalition had made some progress on recognising children's rights in law and policy but more still needed to be done.

The government said poverty was at its lowest level since the 1980s.

The committee's chairman, Labour MP Hywel Francis, said the government's adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child had resulted in improvements for children "in many areas" over the course of this Parliament.

But he added: "The momentum set in train in 2010 has slowed considerably."

'Hungry and cold'

The committee's report said child poverty should be regarded as a breach of human rights and urged the government to commit to ending it by 2020.

"We hope the new government will renew that commitment and that our successor committee will monitor how children's rights are fully taken into account in new law and policy," Mr Francis said.

The report points to evidence from the UK's four children's commissioners, concluding: "We are in a nation where more children will be poor, hungry and cold, not fewer, by 2016-17 if something is not done."

The committee recommends the commissioner for England should be given the power to take up individual cases on behalf of children, to bring the role into line with the equivalent posts in other parts of the UK.

'Black mark'

It also notes that while the number of children involved in the youth justice system in England and Wales has fallen, the number held in custody is still the highest in Western Europe.

And it says regulations about the use of force on children in custody "cannot be considered compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child".

Legal aid is another area of concern for the committee, with reforms to the system described as "a significant black mark" on the government's human rights record during the second half of this Parliament.

It calls on the government to look again at the changes and to "undo some of the harm they have caused to children".

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: "The government has taken decisive action to tackle the root causes of poverty - including worklessness, low earnings and a poor education. The reality is, inequality has fallen and poverty in this country is at the lowest level since the mid 1980s.

"There are now 300,000 fewer children in relative poverty than in 2010, and there are also record numbers of people in work, with more people than ever before with the security of a regular wage."

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