When UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre published Report Card 7in 2007 showing the UK was at the bottom of the international league table of child well-being, UNICEF UK called a conference at Ditchley Park to discuss the findings. This resulted in the Ditchley Declaration which was supported by all the political parties. The Department of Children, Families and Schools published a Children’s Plan, more resources were found for child care, schools, child health and the child poverty strategy and there was all party support for the Child Poverty Act in 2010. We already knew from national data that things for children improved between 2004 and 2010 – out of 48 national indicators of child well-being covered in The well-being of children in the UKonly two had got worse and 13 showed no clear trend.
In order to know how well we are doing for our children we really need to compare their outcomes with children in other countries. Now UNICEF Innocenti Report Card 11repeats the comparative analysis of child well-being six years later, and with more up-to-date data, and the UK’s comparative position has improved. In 2007 the UK was bottom of 21 rich nations in child well-being. In 2013 the UK comes 16 (or 14 if subjective well-being is included) out of 29 rich countries. In 2007 the UK was in the bottom third of the league table on children’s material well-being, education, family and relationships, behaviours and risks and subjective well-being and in the middle third on health and safety. In 2013 it is in the top third on housing and the environment (not included in 2007), middle third on all other domains except education, which is still in the bottom thirds thanks to mainly to our high NEET rates.
The Innocenti Centre has structured the indicators somewhat differently in RC11 but direct comparisons can be made for a number of indicators. The UK has moved up the league table on:
- Life satisfaction
- Finding classmates kind and helpful
- Liking school
- Subjective health
- Family affluence
- Child poverty rates and gaps
- Child deprivation
- Eating fruit
- Eating breakfast
- Being bullied
Things UK children still do not do well on comparatively include:
- Infant mortality
- Low birth weight
- Staying on
- Teenage fertility
So RC11 is a good news story. It shows that if the effort is made, children’s lives can be improved.
There is no room for complacency.
The UK is 16 behind, for example, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Portugal - all much poorer countries. We should still be doing much better.
Also the evidence in RC11 predates most of the policies introduced by the Coalition Government to cut the deficit. Unemployment has gone up and most of the cuts to benefits and services have been loaded on families with children (rather than pensioners) at a time when real living standards have been falling. Already there is evidence that child deprivation and absolute poverty have begun to increase. Evidence from the Understanding Society survey suggests that the subjective well-being of 11-15 year olds has begun to fall. NEET rates are up and there may even be a reduction in staying on rates in England. Just as the evidence emerges that we have made progress in comparison with other countries, we are once again moving backwards
 Professor of Social Policy, University of York. Contributed to the background research for Innocenti Report Cards 7 and 11.
Bradshaw, J. (2011) The well-being of children in the UK, Bristol: Policy Press.
 UNICEF Office of Research (2013). ‘Measuring Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview’, Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence
Martorano, B., L. Natali, C. de Neubourg and J. Bradshaw (2013). ‘Child Wellbeing in Advanced Economies in the Late 2000s’, Working Paper 2013-01, UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/iwp_2013_1.pdf
Martorano, B., L. Natali, C. de Neubourg and J. Bradshaw (2013). 'Child Wellbeing in Economically Rich Countries: Changes in the first decade of the 21st century', Working Paper 2013-02. UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/iwp_2013_2.pdf
Bradshaw, J., B. Martorano, L. Natali and C. de Neubourg (2013). ‘Children’s Subjective Well-being in Rich Countries’, Working Paper 2013-03. UNICEF Office of Research, Florence. http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/iwp_2013_3.pdf