There are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today. That’s 27% of children, or more than one in four. 330,205 children received food from a Trussell Trust food bank from April 2013 to March 2014.

The overarching picture for all children in England is far from perfect, and there are some fundamental supports and protections missing that mean children are exposed to many more hardships and challenges than they should be. Our members are calling for changes to how England approaches leadership, rights, advocacy and equality for children.

Children’s rights to physical and mental health, family life, development and many other fundamental aspects of life are laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child but English law does not enforce these. With the UK due to leave the European Union and the government intending to review the Human Rights Act, it’s possible that children’s protection by both international and domestic legislation will be further reduced, rather than strengthened. Existing UK law doesn’t protect children from age discrimination (under-18s are the only age group it’s legal to discriminate against) and recent cuts to legal aid funding mean that some children and families who need recourse to the law find themselves unable to get justice because they can’t access advocacy. So whilst the best interests of a child are paramount in children’s legislation and in the practice of frontline professionals, children are not fully protected from the adverse effects of problems like poverty, homelessness and lack of mental health provision.

At the moment, changes for children are led by the Children’s Minister in the Department for Education, with schools policy attracting more resources than social care or action to improve children’s lives more broadly. Decisions made in other government departments, without analysis of their potential impact on children, can all too often make children’s lives worse, such as the benefit cap, withdrawal of support for asylum seeking families who have exhausted their right to appeal a judgment, and environmental policy that fails to mitigate fatal levels of pollution in cities.

We believe stronger leadership and longer-term planning for children is needed by central government, so that these inconsistencies can be addressed and policies by all government departments can put children’s welfare at heart. A society that puts children at heart is a better society for everyone.

Our manifesto demands in this area are below. Share them if you agree!

Manifesto demand: urgent action on child poverty Manifesto demand: 10-year strategy and leadership for children Manifesto demand: incorporate the UNCRC
Manifesto demand: legal aid and advocacy for all children Manifesto demand: end age discrimination against children