Impact of Poverty on Babies Children and Young People

2.46 million children under the age of 15 are living in relative income poverty in the UK. Poverty rates have remained high in Wales over the past two decades with children consistently at the highest risk of living in poverty of any age group. The cost of living crisis has increased the risk of negative health impacts of poverty. The latest International Horizon Scanning and Learning Report from the Policy and International Health WHOCC Directorate at Public Health Wales looks at the impact of poverty on babies, children and young people and summarises international approaches to prevent and/or reduce it. 

Children are disproportionately affected by extreme poverty and their health and wellbeing are more vulnerable to its effects both in the short- and long-term. Poverty in childhood can lead to poor health outcomes and into adulthood, such as asthma, obesity and poor mental health. It is associated with low educational attainment, poor socioeconomic outcomes and poor living standards in adulthood, crossing generations. Poverty-related stigma in children has a significant impact not only on mental health and self-esteem but also on the uptake of support for example free school meals, social security, emergency welfare and support with debt. 

International evidence shows that a multi-agency approach is essential involving a range of partners, such as government, local authorities, voluntary and community organisations, housing agencies, landlords, education, mental health services and the private sector. It works most effectively when it is underpinned by a shared understanding of harms and the priority actions needed to address it. 

The report features successful approaches and potential solutions to tackle poverty and its negative impacts on babies, children and young people. Universal child benefits which give cash transfers to parents to spend how they see fit can address and improve children’s health and well-being. Social protection programmes connect families with healthcare, nutritious food and quality education to give all children a fair chance in life.  

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