Children and Social Security, by Jonathan Bradshaw (ed.)

Ashgate, Aldershot, 2003, 284 pp., hb., 0 7546 3164 8, £42.50. Order this book

This book originated as papers written for a Foundation for International Studies in Social Security Conference on Children in Social Security in 2001, and it is thoroughly international in its content. The first part contains international comparisons of child poverty: on why child poverty is higher in the US than in Europe; on the UK, and the importance of surveys of children’s poverty as well as of family poverty; on Sweden, and the necessity of a spending-power measure of poverty when average income falls; and on Belgium, and the different ways in which family income can be measured.

The second part is on different cash benefit packages for children: in Anglo-American countries, and in New Zealand. A final chapter in this section studies cash benefits for children as inter-generational payments in a context of demographic change.

A third section is a miscellany entitled ‘Other Aspects of Social Security Provision for Children’. Family obligations in Asia, the Child Support Agency in the UK and its equivalent in the USA, benefits for children and their carers in South Africa, the costs and benefits of childcare services in Switzerland, and the satisfaction levels of parents of children with disabilities, are all thoroughly discussed.

Conference papers are necessarily diverse, because their subject-matter reflects the interests of their authors and because conference organisers rarely exercise editorial control – and this collection is certainly diverse. Professor Bradshaw has provided an ‘Introduction and Overview’ at the beginning, and this provides a sense of cohesion. It might have been interesting if he had also supplied a concluding chapter suggesting, on the basis of the evidence contained in the papers, what kinds of benefit regime would be most likely to reduce child poverty. His views on the effects of higher rates of universal benefits (such as the UK’s Child Benefit) would have been informative.
There is no index, which is a pity.