“Royal baby” puts the spotlight on UK child poverty

In case you missed it, at 8.30pm GMT on Monday 22 July, Kensington Palace issued a statement that Britain’s “royal baby” had arrived. "Her royal highness the Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm.”

The media frenzy that been surrounding the birth for weeks reached a climax as dignitaries, pop stars and ordinary people lined up to offer their congratulations to the Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

But away from the cameras, 2,000 other babies were born in the UK on 22 July. However, few – if any – will know the kind of privilege that awaits the would-be king of England.

The economic crisis has hit the UK hard and the most vulnerable members of society are the ones suffering the most.

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government – in power since 2010 – has brought in a raft of measures which appear to be unpicking Britain’s greatly admired welfare state seam by seam under the guise of “jumpstarting the economy”.

Pensions have been cut as have housing benefits; public sector workers from teachers to nurses have had their pay frozen; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, recently announced an additional £11.5 billion worth of spending cuts.

Child poverty

These tough financial times are having an adverse impact on children; the UK has some of the worst figures on child poverty in the industralised north.

A recent report on child wellbeing in advanced economies from Unicef places the UK at joint 16th with Hungary on child poverty, despite the fact that at US$13,858 Hungary’s average annual income is almost half of the UK’s (US$23,047).

In addition, data released by the Department for Work and Pensions last month, revealed that at least one out of every six children in the UK lives in relative poverty.

Between 2011 and 2012, 2.3 million UK children (17 per cent) lived in homes with substantially lower than average incomes than in the previous year.

And despite the fact that the government has pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals that the numbers of children living in poverty will actually rise to 3.4 million by 2020.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the charity Child Poverty Action Group, told the Guardian: "…policies which increase child poverty are a false economy, costing the country as well as poor children themselves dear.

“In the last three years families with children have had to bear the brunt of the government’s austerity programme – it is no surprise that child poverty is projected to increase as a result.”

Poverty impacts on every facet of a child’s life from education to their physical and mental wellbeing.

According to statistics from the UK children’s charity Barnardos, 24 per cent of children in the poorest fifth of households belong to families who can’t afford to keep their house warm, compared to just one per cent in the richest fifth.

Three-year-olds in households with incomes below about £10,000 are 2.5 times more likely to suffer chronic illness than children in households with incomes above £52,000.

Meanwhile, as the government continues to make cuts at every corner, the official annual bill for the British monarchy rose by 900,000 to £38.3 million last year.

A report by a pro-republic think tank, however, puts the true cost of the Royal Family at £200 million.