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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 February 2007, 12:20 GMT
Unicef report: Reaction in quotes
The UK has come bottom of a Unicef league table for child well-being across 21 industrialised countries.

Here is a selection of quotes from key figures who have reacted to Unicef's findings.

JIM MURPHY, WELFARE REFORM MINISTER

"[The report] looks at some information and analysis from perhaps six, seven, eight years ago. Some of the information really is out of date in that sense.

"If you look at the teenage pregnancies issue, for example, we're now 20 years low on teenage pregnancy levels, and on homelessness as well there's been real progress there as well - a 25-year low in terms of new homelessness, so there's an awful lot we have achieved.

"Hopefully it leads to a wider conversation about what more we can do to eradicate poverty.

"There is definitely more we can do, and I've been pretty public about that every day that I'm in this job, and I'm determined to work with the prime minister and the Chancellor and importantly - perhaps even more importantly - with young people to see what more policies we can deliver to lift ever more young people out of poverty."

BOB REITEMEIER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CHILDREN'S SOCIETY

"Unicef's report is a wake-up call to the fact that, despite being a rich country, the UK is failing children and young people in a number of crucial ways.

"When you look at some of the risk and behavioural indicators in this study, what it shows is that in areas such as drug use, alcohol, binge-drinking, teenage pregnancy and indeed violence, what it shows is that the UK performs very badly in a comparative analysis."

GEORGE OSBORNE, SHADOW CHANCELLOR

"I don't actually think government has the answer to all these problems.

"This is not all about politicians in Westminster passing laws, it's about social responsibility, it's about parents taking greater responsibility for their children, it's about trusting teachers in classrooms, it's about us as neighbours in a society playing our part as well.

"Children often in their own way are very articulate about what they think is wrong with their life or how they think it could be improved.

"However, that's not to say, you know, we should be entirely run by children as a society. I think that children also need boundaries and those in charge of children, whether its teachers in the classroom, need greater responsibilities in terms of disciplining those children, but also parents need to play their part."

PROFESSOR SIR AL AYNSLEY-GREEN, CHILDREN'S COMMISSIONER FOR ENGLAND

"It's very much in line with what children and young people are telling me about their lives today and I think the shocking conclusion is that as a nation we have been failing our children and young people.

"I think we should give credit for some steps along the way because these results have not happened overnight, these are the consequence of 20 or 30 years of lack of investment in children, so it really is going to take a long time to change the direction of travel.

"Progress is being made, we have an awful long way to go yet."

KATE GREEN, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, CHILD POVERTY ACTION GROUP

"The report makes very clear that without addressing relative poverty the well-being of children in the UK will continue to suffer.

"We need a national commitment, shared by the public and politicians alike, to put the improvement of our children's quality of life and an end to child poverty at the top of the British political agenda.

"As a member of the End Child Poverty campaign, we are calling on the government to provide the 4bn extra annual investment needed to get back on track for the target of halving child poverty by 2010."

JASON STRELITZ, POVERTY ADVISER, SAVE THE CHILDREN

"I think what Labour have realised is that you can't do this on the cheap and you can't do this on the quick - it takes time to create the kind of real, long lasting social change that they're looking for but it also takes money.

"If you look at the list in the report from Unicef, the countries that do really well across a broad range of areas are those countries that invest in their children.

"They invest significant amounts of money in children's well-being, and that's the choice for the government."

COLETTE MARSHALL, SAVE THE CHILDREN UK

"This report shows clearly that despite the UK's wealth, we are failing to give children the best possible start in life," she said.

"The UK government is not investing enough in the well-being of children, especially to combat poverty and deprivation."

DAVID WILLETTS, CONSERVATIVE EDUCATION SPOKESMAN

"We haven't trusted teachers as professionals to get on with what they know best.

"What teachers tell me is that they're so snowed under with all these detailed instructions from government they can't focus on the child, so we do need to do better in education. But of course the report ranges much more widely.

"The reason it is such a powerful indictment of what has gone wrong in this country is that they look at everything from poverty, children's mental health, [to] education, and when they put all those together it is really worrying that we're bottom of the league table."

PROFESSOR JONATHAN BRADSHAW, YORK UNIVERSITY, AUTHOR OF REPORT

"For the past two decades between 1979 and 1999 we failed to invest in our children. We cut education expenditure, we cut expenditure on child health services.

"Our child poverty rates trebled - so that we went from the middle of the international league table to the top of the child poverty league table.

"And the findings we have today are a consequence of a long-term under-investment in the well-being of children."


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