Education & Family

UK child poverty plans doomed to failure, report says

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Britain's child poverty plans are "doomed" to fail as 3.5 million children will be in poverty by 2020, says a watchdog chaired by former health secretary Alan Milburn.

The government's draft strategy for the next three years is a "missed opportunity" and falls far short of what is needed, said the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.

It urged politicians to work together.

Ministers said they remained committed to ending child poverty by 2020.

The child poverty promise - which includes a pledge to cut the number of children in relative poverty to 10% by 2020 - was enshrined in law in 2010.


Mr Milburn said the draft child poverty strategy was a "missed opportunity" and fell "far short" of what was needed to reduce, or end child poverty in Britain.

He said it was a "farce" and "particularly lamentable" that ministers had been unable to agree on how to measure poverty after rubbishing existing measures.

"The government's approach falls far short of what is needed to reduce, yet alone end child poverty in our country," added the former Labour MP.

"Our new research shows that the gap between the objective of making child poverty history and the reality is becoming ever wider."

But, he said, child poverty was "not just an issue" for the current government.

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"Across the political spectrum, party leaders now need to come clean about what they plan to do to hit the targets, or what progress they can deliver if they expect to fall short," he said.

The research said it would need "big increases" in the working hours of families in poverty which were "implausible", and "far more ambitious" than had been achieved in the UK or "anywhere else in the world".

The report added that there were some "good" aspects to the plans.

It commended extending childcare support to low-income families, and recognising the poverty problem more than in previous reports.

However, these were "not enough" for the government to meet its 2020 targets, which were legal obligations, said the commission.

It criticised a lack of any clear measures to assess progress and the absence of a detailed plan covering what needed to happen to jobs, wages and benefits to ensure poverty went down.

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It also identified limited action to get other parts of society, such as employers, engaged in tackling poverty and a lack of new action on in-work poverty as fundamental problems.

In addition it accused the government of ignoring the impact of welfare cuts.

A number of groups were asked to respond to the government's consultation, alongside the commission.

The report was carried out for the Commission by Landman Economics and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research.

'Big problem'

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said that as the coalition set up the group as a watchdog on child poverty, ministers "must do something about" this report.

She said the "big problem" was the coalition's decision to target austerity on children's benefits and tax credits for families in low-paid work.

"It's not fair to punish millions of families with children for an economic crisis caused by the banks."

"The government's draft child poverty strategy needs a major revamp to make it credible, with a clear explanation of how targets will be met.

"Now the economy is growing, we need a commitment to restore the value of children's benefits to their level before the financial crisis."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "We remain committed to our goal of ending child poverty by 2020.

"Our strategy outlines plans to tackle the root causes of poverty, including worklessness, low earnings and educational failure.

"This approach is a better reflection of the reality of child poverty in the UK today and is the only way to achieve lasting change."

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