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Child Poverty

Volume 574: debated on Tuesday 28 January 2014

Estimates of child poverty are published in the National Statistics “Households below average income” series. The Government remain committed to ending child poverty, but strongly believe that looking at relative income in isolation is not a helpful measure to track progress towards that.

There are now more than 1,000 food banks throughout the country, and the Brick food bank in my constituency is forced to give out cold food packs and kettle packs to some working families who cannot afford to eat or heat. Will the Minister explain why the number of working families with children in relative poverty is increasing?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. As a Member of Parliament who has held a number of surgeries in my local food bank in Loughborough, I know that there is a variety of different reasons for people having to rely on food banks, and I am sure she will recognise that, under this Government, jobcentres are now able to direct people to food banks. Work remains the best way out of poverty, and the number of children living in workless households has fallen by more than 100,000 since the Government came to office.

Does the Minister agree that Labour’s abolition of the 10p tax rate drove more households into child poverty? By raising the tax threshold to £10,000 and creating more jobs than ever before, this Government are reducing child poverty.

At the heart of my hon. Friend’s question is the fact that, as I said, work remains the best way out of poverty, and the number of children living in workless households has fallen since this Government came to office. He is absolutely right, and we must do more to get people into jobs and therefore benefit from changes to the personal allowance threshold.

16. The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that an extra 1.1 million children will be living in poverty by 2020 as a direct result of this Government’s economic policies. Today, research from Demos shows that children living in poverty are also less likely to do well at school. What will the Government do to prevent the multiple and lifelong effects of children living in poverty? (902223)

On poverty projections, in October 2012 the IFS suggested that the number of children in relative poverty would fall by 100,000 in 2010-11, but in fact it fell by 300,000. If the hon. Lady wishes to talk about educational attainment, I am sure she will join me in welcoming the news yesterday that thanks to strong reforms of the education sector by the Secretary of State for Education, more schools are now offering better education than under the previous Government.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as the Centre for Social Justice has argued for a long time, we must tackle the underlying drivers of poverty—family breakdown, illiteracy and innumeracy, substance abuse among parents and so on—as well as put a welcome emphasis, as she has done, on getting people back into work?

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The Government remain committed to ending child poverty by 2020 and to the Child Poverty Act 2010. We understand that poverty is about more than income alone. As he has said, we need to focus on the root causes, one of which is poor mental health, in which I have taken a particular interest.