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If we save just one child with this project… It probably won’t be worth it

By Justin Forsyth, Director, Save The Children

STC At Save The Children, we’re committed to ensuring that children  everywhere have access to proper healthcare, food and education. That’s  why we’ve worked to secure £100 million of funding to pay for free school  equipment for at least half of the 1.7 million children living below the  poverty line in the UK.

And if that investment results in just one child being lifted out of poverty…  To be honest, it’ll be a bit of a waste.

Every life is valuable, and every child, no matter where they live or what their parents do, has a right to a good education. But at the same time £100 million is a lot of money. If in ten years it results in just one young person reaching university when otherwise they wouldn’t… Well, you’d have to say we’d probably be better off spending the money on something else. Water filtration in Africa, for instance. That would definitely save a lot of people. Or even an ad campaign.

£100 million divided by 850,000 is equivalent to £120 per child. That’s enough money to equip a pupil with stationery, calculators and PE kit for two years. If £120 sounds like a lot to you and I, the opportunities it offers to that child are incalculable by comparison.

Although having said that, £120 for each child does seem a bit much. That‘s £120 each. And there’s no way of guaranteeing that kid’s even going to appreciate that money. Because some of them just don’t, do they?

Every child matters. The phrase, coined by New Labour ten years ago, has gained currency across the political spectrum, and few would now argue with its logic. If we cannot create a stable, healthy environment for each individual, we cannot create a healthy and stable society for all.

But let’s look at that again phrase again. Every child matters. Is that really true? Every single one? For the past five years Save The Children has had a leaking pipe above its main meeting room. If we held back the cash for just three of those children, we could fix that pipe. As a result, meetings will be more productive, we can do more work, and ultimately we can help more children.

So really, ‘every child matters’ is a false economy. ‘In the long term, the number of children who matter is equal to, or slightly less than, the resources available’ – that’s more like it.

If the government’s spending cuts hit hard in ordinary, middle-class families, they will hit poor families harder. As the nation begins its slow rise out of recession, we must remember who will shape the future: our children, and our children’s children. There’s still a huge amount of work to be done, but with this money we hope that at least some of those children will have a chance of a life that is more than just a fight for survival.

A hundred million though. Is that definitely right? I’d better check the figures one more time before we sign this one off.