My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for securing this vital debate. The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the life of every child in this country. Many of their households face reduced income, irregular working hours, increasing debt, greater risk of online harm, growing concern over mental health and well-being, and increased prevalence of domestic violence. Already vulnerable children have been made all the more at risk.
My work with the Children’s Society has drawn my attention to the disproportionate and detrimental impact of inequality and lack of sustainability on children and their households. By 2021, it is predicted that more than 5 million children will be affected by poverty in the UK. In Derby, the proportion of nought to 15 year-olds living in income-deprived households is as much as 47%. The gap in life expectancy between the poorest and most affluent areas of the city is eight and a half years, and the gap in healthy life expectancy is 19 years.
The inequalities that affect children in poverty run deep and are systemic, so the solutions need to be long term, taking account of the sustainability of the future for the children’s sake. Responding to the needs of every child in post-Covid-19 recovery strategies means keeping children and young people safe, protecting children and families facing financial insecurity, and supporting the mental health and well-being of all children in ways that support the recovery of the planet which they will inherit, rather than further damage it.
I encourage the Minister to ensure that government finds ways to hear the voices of children as our post-Covid-19 recovery strategies are shaped. Recovery strategies will contribute to a fairer, cleaner and more sustainable future only if they offer hope for every child and young person across the UK. Will the Minister commit therefore, as some previous Governments have done, to using family or young person tests to assess the impact of all Covid-19 recovery strategies as a mechanism for contributing to a fairer, cleaner and more sustainable economy?