Campaigners have renewed calls for a £3 billion investment to end child poverty as research put Britain near the bottom of a league table of European youngsters’ well-being.
High numbers of youngsters in workless families, poor local environments and the low numbers in education or training helped leave the UK trailing 24th out of 27 nations.
That was well below the performance of countries such as Germany (8th) and France (15th) and a very long way behind the continent’s best-off children, the Dutch and Scandinavians.
Only Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta fared worse, according to the latest research by the University of York, which was based on data from 2006.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said the Government was using the right kinds of policy but had failed to back them with sufficient resources.
"The recent emphasis on the material circumstances of children, on education and health inequalities and of early intervention has been right and must continue over the long term. It is the dose which has been inadequate, not the medicine," it said.
CPAG is one of 150 organisations which have joined forces to call on Chancellor Alistair Darling to announced a £3 billion-plus boost to benefits and tax credits for low income families in Wednesday’s Budget.
Chief executive Kate Green said: "The last time a child well-being league table was published, British people were shocked the UK came last.
"This time we need a frank focus on why other countries are doing so much better for their children. Public resolve and political action to put children first are more important than another round of hand wringing."
Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes said the Government had made "wide-ranging improvements" since the time the data was collected. "The fact that we created a new Government department to focus solely on children, schools and families shows the increased importance being given to children in this country," she said.