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Poverty: Children

Volume 473: debated on Wednesday 12 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what further steps his Department plans to take to tackle child poverty; and if he will make a statement. (192390)

The first Departmental Strategic Objective in our Three Year Business Plan, published on 28 February 2008, and available in the Library, is to reduce the number of children living in poverty. The focus will be on children living in workless households and children benefiting from child maintenance, particularly those living in low income households.

The Government are supporting families to escape poverty by increasing employment and raising incomes for those who can work; improving parents’ access to training in and out of work, and helping lone parents with older children prepare for and actively seek work. The rising trend of child poverty has already been halted; there are 600,000 fewer children living in relative poverty than in 1998-99. A further 300,000 children will be lifted out of poverty as a result of last year’s Budget and comprehensive spending review.

In December 2007, we published ‘Ready for Work: full employment in our generation’, which sets out the next phase of welfare reform. Lone parents who can work will be required to actively seek work, helped by a flexible system of pre-work and in-work support. This will commence for lone parents whose youngest child is 12 or over from October 2008, 10 or over from 2009, and seven or over from 2010. The Government also published the Children’s Plan in December 2007 which sets out policies and measures to improve children’s life chances and help to alleviate child poverty.

As a result of changes to the personal tax and benefit system since 1997, by April 2009, families with children in the poorest fifth of the population will be, on average, £4,000 a year better off in real terms.

The child element of Child Tax Credit will rise by £25 a year above earnings indexation in April 2008, in addition to the Budget 2007 commitment to increase the child element by £150, and it will rise by a further £25 above indexation in April 2010. The child maintenance disregard in the main income-related benefits will be doubled from £10 to £20 by the end of 2008, and doubled again from £20 to £40 in April 2010.

Compared to 2007-08, by 2010-11 the Government will be investing an additional £2 billion a year in public services to alleviate child poverty and break cycles of deprivation, including spending on child care, schooling in deprived areas, educational attainment, health inequalities, emotional well being, disabled children and school transport.