Tuesday, 3 May 2011

UK ranks behind Slovenia in childhood wellbeing

Six out of 1,000 British children will die before their fifth birthday and only four in five attend pre-school, says Save the Children

Children in the UK are worse off than those in Slovenia, Estonia and Greece, according to Save the Children. The charity today ranked the UK 23rd out of 43 "more developed" countries for child wellbeing in its annual State of the World's Mothers report, and said the result was a "national embarrassment".

The report ranked children's wellbeing according to three main factors: pre-primary enrolment, secondary school enrolment and under-five mortality rate. The charity said it was "particularly concerned" that just 81% of children in the UK were enrolled in pre-primary education. Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "We know that pre-school nursery or playgroup access helps all children, but especially the poorest. It is a national embarrassment that the UK lags so far behind other countries of a similar size and wealth."

Mr Forsyth criticised government plans to cut support for childcare costs, which he said would hurt the poorest children even further. "By cutting childcare support, the government is making it harder for low-income parents to return to work but, just as important, more of our poorest children are likely to miss out on pre-school education, a key to later educational achievement," he said.

The charity's report ranked Sweden as the best place for a child's wellbeing, with Italy and Japan in joint second place. Somalia is the worst place on the planet for children's wellbeing. The UK's under-five child mortality rate – at six per 1,000 live births – was the joint 23rd lowest score out of the 43 countries. The lowest rates were three per 1,000. And it found that only 81% of children under five were enrolled in pre-school education. In secondary schools, 99% of children were enrolled.