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Child Poverty

Volume 547: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2012

12. What assessment he has made of the effect of the Government's fiscal policies on the level of child poverty. (113588)

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is being set up and will provide an assessment of child poverty using a wide range of measures, including income.

Before the 2010 election, the Prime Minister said:

“Poverty is relative—and those who pretend otherwise are wrong.”

Why are the Government now planning to abolish that measure of child poverty?

The Government have confirmed their commitment to child poverty targets and we are going further by consulting on better measures of child poverty in the autumn. We seek a range of views on that.

Does the Minister agree that the real failing of the previous Government was their narrow focus on income transfers instead of addressing the real root causes of welfare dependency such as low aspirations and worklessness?

I certainly do. The important point is how we help people to get out of poverty and stay out. I note that there are problems with the current measure of poverty. Because median incomes fall, children are considered to have moved out of poverty when there will have been no real change to their lives. That cannot be a fully accurate measure.

What will the Government do to address the still very high levels of in-work poverty, and how can freezing working tax credit and reducing help with child care costs possibly help?

Let me name a number of things the Government are doing to support families and let me note our plans to move toward universal credit, which will help with work incentives. Let me note our plans to have doubled the number of disadvantaged two-year-olds receiving free hours of child care each week. On tax credits, let me note that we have had to fix the previous Government’s unsustainable budgeting in that area and that six out of 10 families with children are still eligible.

Is it not especially important that we take action on child poverty, given the quite sharp increase in the previous Parliament? The targets were missed by about 600,000, I think, and when the previous Government left office, 4 million children were in poverty.

My hon. Friend is correct: child poverty is a real problem. This Government are committed to eradicating it and to increasing social mobility. We are taking the measures to assist children that I listed in response to the previous question. I should also point out that the average household gains about £5.50 a week from the tax and benefit changes made in April this year. We are making progress and acting where we can. It is important to keep up the pressure on child poverty.