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Child Poverty

Volume 587: debated on Monday 3 November 2014

Relative child poverty is now at its lowest level since the mid-1980s, and there are now 300,000 fewer children in relative poverty than in 2010. However, poverty projections are based on a number of factors that cannot be reliably predicted, including the median income.

According to the most recent figures published under this Government, 53% of children in the Orchard Park and Greenwood ward in my constituency are living in poverty, compared with 11% in the neighbouring constituency of Haltemprice and Howden. What is the Minister going to do to ensure that we do not end up with a permanently divided society?

The fall in unemployment has happened across the country, and the risk that a child will be living in poverty is three times greater for those living in workless households than for those living in a house in work. We now have over 300,000 fewer children living in workless households, with more falls since those figures were put together. That is the best antidote to child poverty.

Those same figures show that Manchester Central has the fourth highest rate of child poverty in the country. That comes on top of the finding by the Government’s own Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission that there are now 600,000 more children in working households living in absolute poverty. When will Ministers stop denying that that is a problem and do something about it?

I was very struck by the comments of the hon. Lady’s hon. Friend the shadow Education Secretary. According to a recent article:

“Criticising the policies of the last Labour government, Mr Hunt said that the party had previously been too preoccupied with tax credits and not given enough thought to tackling social problems in families.”

We are tackling those social problems through the troubled families initiative and a whole range of initiatives, such as the pupil premium, free school meals and more help with child care for young children. Disadvantaged children will benefit from our measures.

Assuming that the Department for Work and Pensions supports the armed forces covenant, will the Minister indicate whether the children of any serving personnel might be brought into child poverty as a result of the Ministry of Defence’s decision in recent days, as we approach Remembrance Sunday, to jack up the rents for Army married housing?

I take a close interest in those matters, as vice-chair of the ministerial committee on the armed forces covenant, and know that my hon. Friend has a proud record in speaking for his constituents on these matters. We have sought to benefit the children of serving personnel—for example, with regard to education if they have to move around the country—but I will be happy to raise with colleagues in the Ministry of Defence his concern about the impact of the rent increase and ensure that he receives a written response.