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 250.


    Simply because it is an entire nonsense figure anyway. Many have been lifted out of fake poverty by people earning less in the economic slow down so the averages drop.

    There is no such thing as child poverty in this country, only I want more than I have because others have it

    The concept is a pure political game to play, totally unreal.
    Get used to it we are all going to have less

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    I think the definition of poverty as 60% of median income is completely misleading. An absence of food, clothing, shelter and safety is real poverty, not the inability to have a Playstation, or the latest design in trainers. We also have to consider the extent to which the available cash gets through to the children's needs rather than being absorbed by the parents' drinking and smoking habits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    A contact we have played truant from school. Never worked. Got no GCSEs. Left school. Never worked. Has had two children by two fathers. Got to the top of the council tax queue. Lives as a lone parent. I guess her kids therefore live in poverty. But don't you dare tell me that it's my fault and I should pay more taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.


    Nobody who cares about children would devise a benefits system which rewards people for having children they can not provide for.

    The altnerative of not doing anything whilst the children starve, shiver or whatever is of course, brilliant.

    What about families who were providing but due to crass cuts and god-awful Government, have lost their job and now only now cannot afford to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.

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

    "The number of children living in poverty fell by 300,000 to 2.3 million in 2010-11....The reduction was due to a drop in median household incomes"

    Tells me all I need to know, frankly. This govt is well on track to meet its targets, from what I can see. By impoverishing all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    The target is a moving one so somewhat stupid. It is true to say that the super rich have been getting relatively rich compared to the poor so I think wealth re-distribution is failing currently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Government is ageist. It's okay for your granny to live in dire poverty on state handouts as and when they come but not kids who live with and are the responsibility of (mostly) working age adults?

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    This reminds me of soviet communism milestones "We will have build communism by 1985!", "Communism is postponed by 10 years" etc

    There is no way you will defeat the poverty, because poverty is everything below low average.

    And low average is there by definition no matter how wealthy society is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    The previous government set this false and totally useless target. It cannot be attained, to be a percentage of a median either everybody has to earn exactly the same (totally impractical) or some have to be above and some have to be below the median. It ignores things like regional cost of living and parental responsibilities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Benefits capped at £35K. Child benefits for couples on £70K, housing benefits for 18 yr olds etc. Does it pay to work nowadays.

    Actually, the benefit cap is £26,000 and the Government are talking about removing housing benefit for those under 25.

    Course, that doesn't focus on the issue that housing benefit is paid directly to the landlord, nor does it think where these kids will go?

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    Nobody who cares about children would devise a benefits system which rewards people for having children they can not provide for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Was it someone by the name of Jesus Christ, that said to his disciples. "Don't worry about the poor they will always be among you, I'm not here for long" Benefits capped at £35K. Child benefits for couples on £70K, housing benefits for 18 yr olds etc. Does it pay to work nowadays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.


    Benefit culture has lead to a vast majority at ALL levels of society in this country disagreeing with how taxes are spent ...

    ...in turn this has led to a natural want to reduce ones own contributions - TAXES.

    Pay taxes to feed a UK child - NO PROBLEM! Pay taxes for the parent of said UK child to have another... and another... there's the Problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Many posters seem be under the misapprehension that as long as children don't live (die?) naked, barefoot and starving on the Streets then there is no child poverty.

    Fact is that the government has set a benchmark level for poverty to eradicate and are failing to meet it. This is not a third world country ... yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    @230 'jjmbbcnews'
    Well you would need to ask the governments of nations states within Africa who fail their people. Plus, India does have numerous states - so India and indeed Pakistan is more complicated than you purport.

    There is extreme wealth and extreme poverty in all the above. The UK gov does send £billions in international aid and UK people are the most generous to charitable appeals

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    As people frequently post, the problem is over population. We cannot continue to increase population and the planet will suffer.Child poverty will increase. We have to limit families and a start might be through removing children from undesriable people and transferring to those who can. Hence children of racists, far right objectors to immigration, etc, should have their children adopted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    Stupid measures of poverty have led us to a society of benefit dependency

    1. Perhaps no children in the UK live in absolute poverty

    2. Relative poverty is 60% of the median income.
    So what we are effectively saying to poor people is if you are paid less than 2/3 of the national average pay you might as well not work because you will get more on benefits. Just have lots of children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    @196. Shillo
    Labour set this as an aspiration when 1st elected. It took 5 years to sort out the last Tory mess, result, low unemployment & low inflation. Then the banks rigged interests rates causing the credit crash."

    Typical socialist revisionism. New Labour caused the debt crisis by borrowing billions more than we could afford. Rate rigging was a result of the crisis - not the cause!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    The Trussell trust who run foodbanks in the UK have said people using foodbanks have doubled in the last year along. They cite redundancy, illness, benefit delay, domestic violence, debt, family breakdown and paying for the additional costs of heating during winter are as some of the reasons why people go hungry. If there is no poverty feel free to offer to change places with them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    The whole concept is meaningless.


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