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Child Poverty

Volume 487: debated on Wednesday 28 January 2009

The Treasury, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Work and Pensions are today publishing a consultation document on proposals to legislate on the Government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Every child deserves the best start in life. Where children grow up on low income, suffering either material deprivation or falling too far behind their peers, they can be disadvantaged throughout their lives. Child poverty doubled in the 20 years from the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, leaving far too many British children deprived of important opportunities in life.

That is why in 1999 the Government set an ambitious target to end child poverty in a generation. This commitment has already driven considerable progress across Government. The number of children in absolute poverty has halved and 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty to date. Had the Government done nothing other than simply uprate the tax and benefit system, there would have been 2 million more children in relative poverty than there are today.

All families have benefited from increases in support since 1997; households with children are on average £2,100 better off in 2009-10 and families with children in the poorest fifth of the population are £4,400 better off as a result of personal tax and benefit changes.

But too many children still suffer from poverty or disadvantage. That is why we have committed to enshrine in legislation our historic pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020. The consultation document outlines how the Government will use primary and secondary legislation to set a framework for achieving the Government’s 2020 aims, including setting targets for the future. It will also set a requirement for Government to report annually on progress. Improved accountability and a clear and comprehensive definition of progress will provide a platform for a renewed approach to break the cycle of poverty.

We believe that tackling child poverty and confirming our commitment to ending child poverty by 2020 is even more important during difficult economic times. Giving families real help now is important to help people deal with the challenges from the global credit crunch. But it is also about preventing the kind of long-term unemployment and worklessness caused by past recessions, which scarred communities and pushed up child poverty across the country.

The Government are determined that no child is left behind, and we create a fairer society for the future. This requires ensuring that all children have a good start in life and that the causes and consequences of poverty are tackled.

The consultation document sets out the four key elements of the child poverty strategy:

more parents in work that pays and allows them to balance work and family life;

financial support that is responsive to families’ situations;

improvements in children’s life chances so that poverty in childhood does not translate into poor outcomes; and

safe, cohesive communities that support children to thrive.

Alongside this document the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families is publishing “Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare”, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is publishing “Realising Potential: Developing Personalised Conditionality and Support”. A discussion paper on next steps in implementing the Gregg review”.

Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.