UK's spending on children analysed by OECD

Catherine Gaunt
Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The UK Government should continue to spend more on younger children to reduce social inequality, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

An OECD study has highlighted the UK's above-average spending on children in their pre-school years. However, it said spending on older children needs to be targeted to combat high under-age drinking and teenage pregnancy rates.

The report, Doing better for children, compared public spending and policies for children with key indicators of child well-being in 30 countries. It concluded that money is more effective when spent on younger children.

The study found that the UK spends £24,000 per child on those from birth to age five, compared with an OECD average of £19,000 for this age group.

It found that average public spending up to age six accounts for only a quarter of all child spending across OECD countries. The report said that governments needed to balance spending between the early years and the teenage years to improve health, education and well-being for children in the long term.

Although the UK has high rates of spending on older children, its proportion of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETS) is high, at more than one in ten 15- to 19-year-olds.

The UK also has the highest rate of drunkenness in the OECD and the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate, after Mexico, Turkey and the United States.

Co-author of the report, Dominica Richardson, said, 'The UK stands out as increasing early investment in recent years, but reinforcement of this trend for disadvantaged older children is also needed.'

OECD secretary-general Angela Gurria, said, 'Spending early, when the foundations for a child's future are laid, is key, especially for disadvantaged children, and it can help them break out of a family cycle of poverty and social exclusion.'

Further information

The report 'Doing better for children' is at www.oecd.org

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