Durham University: Stark picture of inequality for children in the north

The report, The Child of the North: Building a fairer future after COVID-19, is part authored by academics from Durham as part of the N8 Research Partnership and Northern Health Science Alliance.

It looks at a wide range of factors, from child poverty to children in care, to build up a picture of children’s lives in the north and sends a strong warning that inequality would cost billions and increase poverty in the future.

Children’s lives

The report shows that nearly one third of children in the north live in poverty, they are more likely to be obese and more likely to die before their first birthday compared to children in England as a whole. They are also much more likely to be in care than children in the rest of England.

During lockdown, children in the north missed more schooling than their peers elsewhere and felt lonelier than other children.

The report warns that the mental health conditions developed by children in the north during the pandemic could cost an estimated £13.2 billion in lost wages over their working lives.

These inequalities existed prior to COVID-19 but the report says the pandemic has made the situation worse.

It highlights that austerity measures introduced between 2010 and 2018 had impacted children in the north disproportionately, with deeper cuts to children’s services than the rest of England.

Tackling inequalities

The authors have put forward 18 key recommendations to tackle the inequalities suffered by children. They include:

Increase government investment in welfare, health and social care systems that support children’s health, particularly in deprived areas and areas most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tackle the negative impacts of the pandemic in the north through rapid, focussed investment in early years services, such as the Health Improvement Fund. This should include health visiting, family hubs and children’s centres.#
Take immediate measures to tackle child poverty. Increase child benefit by £10 per child per week. Increase the child element in Universal Credit and increase child tax credits.
Introduce universal free school meals, make the Holiday Activities and Food Programme scheme permanent, and extend it to support all low-income families.
Health and wellbeing is an area of focus for research at Durham, through our Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing, which brings together academics from a wide range of disciplines to tackle challenges in both developed and developing countries.

The Child of the North report involved a number of our experts from Sport and Exercise Sciences, Psychology, Education, Business and Government and International Affairs.