Children of the North - report highlights urgent need to level up

A major new report published today details just how much a north south divide is disadvantaging children in the north.

The report, which will have a parliamentary launch in the new year, reveals those differences have heightened during the pandemic.

More than 40 academics from across the north have shared the results of their research, including two Professors from Lancaster University.

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That research shows how inequalities in areas ranging from poverty and nutrition to educational opportunities and child mortality have disadvantaged needy youngsters in the north,

Professor Karen Broadhurst

The 'Child Of The North: Building a Fairer Future after COVID-19' report has been produced by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSAl, a partnership between the region's leading universities and NHS Hospital Trusts and by the N8 Research Partnership, a collaboration between the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.

Highlighting the costs to society and the economy of such rising inequalities the report makes 18 recommendations to narrow the north south gap. These include: increase Government investment in welfare, health and social care systems which support children’s health;tackle the negative impacts of the pandemic in the north through rapid, focussed

investment in early years services; introduce free school meals for all children and address the uneven geographic distribution of children’s residential care.

Professor Karen Broadhurst: Professor in the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University and Co-Director of the University’s Data Science Institute said: "It's a really important report because it's the first report to bring together a lot of different evidence for children in the north on a range of different issues, education, early years, health, community care, diversity."

The cover of the new Child of the North report

Describing the report as " underpinned by excellent data and analysis" she said: "It really has brought home the stark realities of the difficulties children in the north's a wake-up call...Children are the future."

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She added: "Children inthe north, including in Lancashire were suffering more adversity before the pandemic really hit and they have experienced a greater number of (pandemic) lockdowns than children in other parts of the country."

She said proportionately more children in the region were likely to be in families where there were domestic abuse and mental health difficulties, "I think it's about saying a huge level of investment is needed in the north to compensate for decades of inequality, for years of unequal and unfair investment. About 30 per cent of children in the north are at risk of living in poverty compared to 20 per cent in the rest of England."

She added: It's a perpetuating thing ... It's bleak really.".

Professor Uta Papen of Lancaster University
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The report's co-lead author David Taylor Robinson, Professor of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool and said: “Children growing up in the north of England get a bad deal. ... The stark inequalities exposed in our report are preventable and unfair. Levelling up must begin with better policies for children.”

The report predicts that the loss of learning experienced over the course of the pandemic, will cost an estimated £24.6 billion in lost wages over a lifetime's earnings.

It details how a higher percentage of children are obese in the north by the age of 11 - 22.6% of youngsters in the north compared to 20.5% in the rest of England. Of the local authorities with more than 100 children per 10,000 in care, 21 of 26 are in the north.

In terms of growing up in poverty when it comes to income youngsters have a 58% chance of living in a local authority area with above average levels of low-income families, compared to 19% in the rest of England.

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The inequalities saw children in the region missing more schooling in lockdown than their peers elsewhere in England. The report says nly 14% received four or more pieces of offline schoolwork per day, compared with 20% country-wide.

Report contributor Uta Papen, Professor of Literacy Studies at Lancaster University and Co-Director of the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre said that post lockdown quality time mow needs to be created in the curriculum to discuss and enjoy books and enjoy writing, More generally she said: "This is absolutely an opportunity for Government to say here we can do something - the report shows very clearly the need for levelling up. I think the main thing to be talking about is the issue of poverty because it underlies everything else.For example, children who are hungry can't learn."