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Children in the North of England facing widening inequalities

The Child of the North report, produced by Northern Health Science Alliance and N8 Research Partnership, outlines the stark regional inequalities amongst children in post-pandemic England.

children inequalities
Phil Hearing (Unsplash)

Produced by over 40 academics from across the North of England, including from Sheffield, ‘The Child of the North: Building A Fairer Future After Covid-19’ report produces stark and harrowing findings about the comparative lives of children in England.

The report looks at and analyses a whole host of factors, including child poverty, education, and funding for services, to explore the regional inequalities amongst children in England. Researchers found significant inequalities in the majority of areas they analysed.

Mental health problems that developed in children in northern England during the Covid-19 pandemic are estimated to end up costing £13.2 billion in lost wages over their working lives. They also reported significantly higher levels of loneliness, compared to the rest of England, with 23% of parents in the North reporting that their child was ‘often’ lonely, compared to 15% elsewhere.

When it came to education, children in northern regions lost significantly more learning during the pandemic than children living in other regions in England. Children in the North East and Yorkshire & Humber lost up to five times (around five months) more learning in maths compared to southern areas (less than a month in London).

Only 14% of children in northern regions received four or more pieces of offline schoolwork, compared with 20% elsewhere. It’s estimated that this loss of learning will cost £24.6 billion in lost wages over their lifetime earnings.

Children in northern regions also have a significantly higher chance of living in poverty, with this affecting 27% of children in the North compared to 20% in the rest of England. The North also had much larger cuts to spending on children’s centres, with spending cut by £412 per eligible child in the North compared to just £283 in the rest of England.

As well as presenting their analysis of inequalities amongst children, researchers behind the report also made a series of recommendations that could contribute to the ‘levelling up’ of the nation.

Their recommendations include: increased government investment in systems that support children’s health and early years services, increased investment in domestic abuse services, increased child tax credits, and the introduction of universal free school meals.

Sarah Salway, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sheffield, said of the report, “Our analysis across the piece highlights the intersection of socioeconomic deprivation and racial discrimination impacting the lives of ethnic minority children who continue to be overlooked in much of local and national policy.

“We were delighted to contribute to a report which convincingly demonstrates the pressing need for action and investment to redress the higher levels of poverty and poor health outcomes among children in the North.”

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