According to reports, the new Prince George of Cambridge is worth around £20million already, if you take the wealth of his parents into account. A stark contrast to other babies born on the same day as him last week. Whilst the media were focused on the birth of one boy-just because his Dad is the ‘heir to the heir to the throne’-hundreds of other babies, here in the UK, were born into poverty. Of course the baby can’t help who it was born to or, indeed, the life of privilege it will have and I live in hope that he will, when an adult, decide to become a private citizen and dedicate himself to helping those less fortunate. However, perhaps nothing better illustrates the social divide in our nation today than the gap, not just in terms of wealth, but in terms of life opportunities, between the baby born to Wills and Kate, and those many babies born into poverty around the nation. No ‘feel good factor’ will make that stark truth any more palatable. For those who are reading this and thinking-as some have suggested this week-that the birth of a baby shouldn’t be used to make a political point, they should address their complaints not just to us Republicans, but also to the ‘Royal’ Family themselves, who always use such occasions as a PR exercise, a way to secure the future of ‘The Firm.’ According to Save The Children UK, there are more than 1.6million children living in severe poverty today in Britain. Indeed, if you take the figures provided by the Child Poverty Action Group, the situation is even worse. They say there are 3.5million children living in poverty in the UK today; which is 27% of children, one in four. No cameras are focused on their door, no rolling news coverage of their situation, no banner headlines for them. And what of the much used buzz phrase, ‘social mobility’? Save The Children UK say a pupil on free school meals is only a third as likely to succeed at every key stage at school when compared with their better off classmates. Startlingly, they also say that the gap in development starts to emerge between children from as early as 22 months. Why is this not a national scandal? A moral outrage? Why don’t we have rolling news reports on this? Thankfully, with the Pupil Premium, the Lib Dems have begun to tackle the clear wrong which sees a person’s life chances all but decided from the moment they’re born. But, it’s quite clear, that much, much more needs to be done. As the Child Poverty Action Group states, ‘Child poverty blights childhoods. Growing up in poverty means going cold, going hungry, not being able to join in activities with friends. For example, 61% of families in the bottom income quintile would like, but cannot afford, to take their children on holiday for one week a year.’ They go on, ‘Poverty is also connected to more complicated health histories over the course of a lifetime, again influencing earnings as well as overall quality-and indeed length-of life. Professionals live-on average-eight years longer than non-skilled workers.’ CPAG claim that, under current Government policies, child poverty is projected to rise from 2012/13 with an expected 600,000 more children living in poverty by 2015/16. They say, by 2020, this will have risen to a total 4.7million children living in poverty. Doesn’t this make all the more obscene the media’s obsession with the birth of one very privileged child? So, what’s to be done? How do we begin to turn this tragic tide? Save The Children UK have three specific things it wants the Government to do: 1. See that unemployed parents get all the help they need to get a job-help with getting high-quality childcare, training, the guarantee that work will pay more than benefits, and, crucially, making sure decent, flexible jobs are there to apply for. 2. Ensure that those in work are not being paid below the poverty line, by backing the living wage and increasing the minimum wage. 3. Break the link between being poor and not doing well at school by investing in high-quality education and childcare for young children, support for parents, and a substantial extra investment in the schooling of the poorest pupils. The Government, particularly the Lib Dem element of it, has made a tentative start on some of us this, but-let’s be honest-it needs to do much, much more…and it needs to up the pace significantly. Maybe if we all focussed a little less on the birth of a ‘Royal’ baby and a little more on those born into poverty, we’d begin to see a change in the right direction. Mathew Hulbert is a Lib Dem Borough and Parish Councillor in Leicestershire and is on the Council of the Social Liberal Forum. He is also Co-ordinator of Lib Dems for a Republic.
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