The UK has been warned that a “looming children’s crisis” is on the horizon, unless it takes action to improve the wellbeing of children.
Slovakia, Romania and Iceland all rank higher than the UK in a UNICEF study into children’s health and academic and social skill-sets, with the country 27th out of 41.
The ranking is based on research which shows that 36% of 15-year-olds rated their mental health as poor, while more than one-in-three children did not have basic maths or literacy skills.
UNICEF also said that almost a third of British children, 31%, were obese or overweight.
It said issues facing children in the UK had been made worse by the pandemic, calling it the “biggest global crisis children have faced since World War Two”.
The UN agency urged the government to take action to avert a “looming and long-term crisis for children”.
At the bottom of the rankings are Chile, Bulgaria and the US, while the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway rank best in terms of child wellbeing.
Sacha Deshmukh, the executive director of UNICEF UK, said: “Sadly, it seems that poor mental health, obesity and inadequate social and academic skills are now the hallmarks of modern childhood.
“Lockdown measures, school closures and the wider impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have now added layers of complexity to the challenges facing children in the UK.
“For many children, life is now even tougher and a bright, fulfilling future is further from reach.
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“Over the years, stable economic and social conditions have not fully translated into positive outcomes for children, and while the Report Card does not give the UK a failing grade, the data shows there is significant room for improvement to deliver a better life and future prospects for children.”
UNICEF recommendations to the government include involving young people in its decision-making, helping teachers prioritise pupils’ mental health, providing better access to online education and closing the digital divide.
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