Poverty target will not be met by 2020, says Milburn

Children playing by boarded-up houses Families are currently considered to be in poverty if they are on less than 60% of the median income

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The UK has no chance of meeting its target of ending child poverty by 2020, the government's adviser on social mobility has said.

Ex-minister Alan Milburn said officials must "come clean" and admit the aspiration, first adopted by the Labour government, would not be realised.

He told MPs that £19bn would have to be spent to achieve the goal.

The UK failed to meet a target to halve child poverty by 2010 although numbers have fallen to a near 30-year low.

The government defines child poverty as children living in homes taking in less than 60% of the median UK income.

The 2020 target of eradicating child poverty was agreed by the Labour government in 1999 and enshrined into law in 2010. It was accepted by the coalition when it took power.

But Mr Milburn, who was health secretary under Tony Blair, told the Commons education committee that current trends indicated that the earliest that this could be achieved would be 2027.

'Moment for honesty'

To do so seven years earlier would require the biggest redistribution of income in history, he told MPs.

"The only way we're going to hit the 2020 target is if one or other political party commits to what I don't think any of them are going to do.

Start Quote

I don't believe, frankly, that there is a snowball's chance in hell that we will hit the 2020 target”

End Quote Alan Milburn

"I think there is a moment for honesty here. I think it is time for all the political parties to either put up or shut up.

"I don't believe, frankly, that there is a snowball's chance in hell that we will hit the 2020 target. I think that's very widely privately acknowledged and I think it should be publicly acknowledged too. It is time to come clean about this stuff."

The number of children living in poverty fell by 300,000 to 2.3 million in 2010-11, which campaigners said was the lowest level since the mid-1980s although 600,000 below the amount required to meet the 2010 objective.

The reduction was due to a drop in median household incomes - since the poverty measure is based on median incomes. The median - the middle figure in a set of numbers - for 2010-2011 was £419 a week, down from £432 the year before.

'Deep poverty'

Mr Milburn, who has been advising deputy prime minister Nick Clegg on social mobility, has been nominated by the government to be the first chairman of the new Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

Despite the best intentions of ministers, he said the weak state of the economy and cuts to public expenditure meant it was not an "auspicious time" to try to accelerate progress on child poverty.

The government, he added, should focus on helping the 800,000 children under five living in "deep poverty" by increasing investment in early years education.

Ministers say poverty should not be calculated purely in terms of income and that problems such as unemployment, family breakdown and addiction should be taken into account.

Speaking last month, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said Labour's strategy of spending money on benefits to try to push families above the poverty line had failed.

He said the government's consolidated universal credit - which will replace a series of benefits and tax credits - would pull the "vast majority" of young people out of poverty if at least one parent worked 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    The minimum wage is not a "liveable" wage.
    Many workers receive Tax Credits and other benefits because the system is rigged for cheap labour and without such "social help" would not be able to survive.

    Pity the workers now unemployed... the ex Forces, police and ordinary (low paid) bank worker.

    Could be worse.. we could be Spain and well entered into EU where the kettle is boiling lid jammed on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    No spite, it is required because the last government overspent heavily
    It's now apparent how foolish that was. PFI is thoroughly discredited, tax wasn't collected and tax payer funded private enterprise like A4e had a licence to print money and self gift huge bonuses for failure.

    Sadly, the current shambolic lobby fodder masquerading as "leaders", has done nothing but encourage that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    £10,000,0000 on the Olympics & an undisclosed amount on the Jubilee.
    Better than half the money needed to do something which would actually make me proud to be British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    "159 Next Question"

    Next question is: considering that tax returns are private, where do the Independent get their figures from? there's no mention of it being HMRC figures in the report.

    Also, these figures appear to relate to 2006. Tax avoidance WAS easier under Labour, I admit.

    But even so....

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    @162 LeftieWhiteWash

    I'm not sure what point you mean? If it was the substitution of cash for vouchers then I have already stated an argument against it. Namely, that those vouchers would have to be spent in state/business approved stores. This would effectively place those stores on benefits, and if it's wrong to give public money to the claimant then.... I hope you see the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    Here's a thought.

    Close down the NSPCC and give the money to 'real' children's charities.

    The NSPCC costs/spends millions each year for little or no benefit.

    The cases they claim as successes are too horrendous to be handled by them.

    Do we really need amateurs fiddling where even hardened professionals can fail?

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    I think the use of the word "poverty" is misleading. The aim is to reduce income inequality by raising the lowest incomes closer to the median. This is a laudable goal, but perhaps should not be described as the elimination of "poverty", which I have always understood to mean barely having the means to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Then there is the population pressure argument. Our model of economics will support a population of between 45 and 55 million people. Its heading towards 70 million and things will break down. The Rich have shamelessly been aloud to hoard astronomical wealth. This MUST STOP. The poor simply cannot expect society to pay for them having big families. This must stop also. Action BOTH ends now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    155 I note you ignored the point for which you had no response.

    144 No but then I work for a company generating wealth. My work directly creates jobs for around 50 people. Without us you wouldn't be able to enjoy your unfair retirement stash, make your endless demands on how other people spend their money or smugly espouse your massive sense of entitlement based on the career choice you made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    It is a SHAME on the levels of technology and humanity that this country, being one of the richest in the world, forgoes its humane attitude to children, who are unable to defend themselves.

    It is also, partly, parental responsibility, yet successive governments see the outsourcing jobs and does nothing much to counter it.

    Privatise the utilities and everything else... but if it is PROFIT first?

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    36.Some Lingering Fog
    Relative poverty will never be eradicated due to the way it is measured.
    Absolute poverty was eradicated in the UK with the introduction of the welfare state.


    Helped on by the introduction of the minimum wage. One other thing that will help everyone but especially the low paid and that is to drastically increase the lower tax threshold to say £12K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Of 54 billionaires in uk a total of £13 million collected in tax.
    Of that, JK Rowling and James Dyson paid £11 million."

    Got a link to prove that ridiculous assertion?

    The figures come from HMRC!

    Next Question

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    153 "Spiteful cuts" there you have it, the Guardianist foolishness whipped up by the BBC et all. No spite, it is required because the last government overspent heavily. People, normal people have to work to fund all these instrument of state, can you not see that? People are sick of paying, paying for benefits for endless unsupported children, for the publics sectors' huge, unfair pension etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.


    That didn't take long....

    Not an assertion, dig it out yourself, no harder to find than tax loopholes...as you would know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    With the tories in charge child poverty is going to go up not down.

    Unless we get a Labour Government at the next general election we are never going to meet these targets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    @149 LeftyWhiteWash

    "He never said they were all substance abusers.".

    "We all know where the money handed out to many so-called disadvantaged families goes - to support their addictions to alcohol, drugs and tobacco....".

    That's as close as you can get. By the way there is nothing wrong with a reductio ad absurdum argument if it's done correctly. Thankfully I made no such argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Of 54 billionaires in uk a total of £13 million collected in tax.
    Of that, JK Rowling and James Dyson paid £11 million."

    Got a link to prove that ridiculous assertion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    My my, there are some nasty views on display here today. Whatever happened to live and let live? Why are people trying to vilify a cross-section of society from policemen to disabled people, aided by the rightwing nutjob press? Is it purely down to influencing public opinion to accept these spiteful cuts?

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    Every article, prediction, statement etc., we read indicates one situation only - The colossal and bewildering amounts of moneey - finance, being wasted in supporting Afghanistan - Libya - Pakistan etc., defies belief and is a disgrace - When statements are made that we cannot child poverty ! or in fact care for our elderly !
    This is a profound shame and disgrace showing us no respect at all !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    ...Of course, couples should only have children if they can afford them anyway.

    Not necessarily. What about the many families who consider themselves to be in working or middle class brackets but fall on hard times due to redundancy/severe illness. What are they supposed to do - send their children back to where they came from. Not all people on benefits are lazy scroungers.


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