THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has expressed concern over the high levels of child detention in the UK, in the week when a report by the four Children’s Commissioners warned that British children feel demonised.
The study, which is a submission to the United Nations by the Children’s Commissioners of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, highlighted infringements of children’s rights, such as the lack of protection against physical punishment in the home.
It also reported failings in the Government’s attempts to halve child poverty by the end of the decade: the latest figures show a rise in child poverty during 2006-07. The statistics released by the Department of Work and Pensions on Tuesday suggest that the total number of children living in poverty has risen by 100,000 to almost 2.9 million.
Speaking on the BBC2 Newsnight programme on Monday, Dr Williams said it was a “major plus” that the Government had made child poverty such a priority, despite its lack of success so far.
“If you ask some people in Government why [it failed], one of their replies might be: ‘Well, we do need a clearer mandate from the public at large on this.’ Now, if you have a situation where, as apparently is the case, barely 50 per cent of the population really believe that child poverty is a major issue, then perhaps it’s not entirely surprising.”
Talking about the high levels of child custodial sentences in the UK, the Archbishop said that we are in “a very punitive frame of mind”, and that public rhetoric sometimes suggests people do not like children much. “You’ve got, I think, 25,000 children given custodial sentences in a three-year period quite re-cently; you’ve got 30 deaths of children in custody in an 18-year period — that has to be something to worry about.”
Earlier that day, the Archbishop had hosted a meeting of religious leaders at Lambeth Palace to discuss interfaith co-operation as a way of combating poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
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