Behind the headlines

Last week chancellor Gordon Brown announced an extra £1bn
in cash for child benefits and child care in his pre-Budget report.
The government has pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2015 and
the chancellor has stressed that the issue remains top of the
political agenda.

Announcing a new package of measures, Brown said the government
wanted to target help at working families and would be pushing
ahead with the development of Sure Start centres in every
community. Child benefit is to be increased by 13 per cent to a new
rate of £58 per month for the first child and £100 for
families with two children. Employers will be able to offer
£50 per week for approved child care through vouchers or
nursery places free of tax and national insurance. Child tax credit
is also to be increased by a maximum of £3.50 a week per
child. Those earning under £13,480 will receive the full
increase. The chancellor also announced new “school-parent links”
in 500 areas which would aim to help prepare children for school.
From April, every child of three and four will be guaranteed a
nursery place.

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“The chancellor has long shown his commitment to the relief of
child poverty and the development of early years services. The
children’s services green paper arose from a Treasury cross-cutting
review last year. He has done well to find the money for these
additional measures at a time when borrowing has been increased.
Congratulations to the chancellor – but think what might have been
achieved if he had not needed to find £2.5bn to cover the
initial costs of the Iraq War.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“The chancellor has made some brave decisions – child poverty
cannot be eradicated overnight but the cumulative impact of budgets
like this really should make a difference. The goal of children’s
centres in every community is brilliant because itÊ
removesÊtheÊrisk of stigma as well as benefiting all
children – this is a universal measure which makes sense. Child
care assistance is important but I would like more help for those
mothers whose earning power is low and whose children would
haveÊa better life chance if they could be at home with them
in their early years.”

Martin Green, chief executive, counsel and Care for the

“The chancellor’s pre-budget statement was undoubtedly good for
children and again gave significant amounts of money to support
children and to move towards the target of ending child poverty. I
am not convinced that giving more money to councils is necessarily
a good idea without being very specific about what they should
spend it on.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Britain has the worst poverty record in western Europe except for
Greece and children and older people are the most affected. Yet, it
would have been much worse without government investment. One trap
in our growth economy is that the rich get richer quicker than the
poor get less poor, so the gap gets worse, not better. To reverse
the growing divide, low pay must be tackled and benefits must
increase in line with average income, not prices.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“The chancellor’s commitment of an extra £400m to local
councils was very welcome to deprived areas such as ours where
vulnerable people looked like being seriously disadvantaged by the
previous settlement. I’d also really like to believe that these
measures will lead to more children coming out of poverty but
there’s a constant worry that bureaucracy and the over-complexity
brought about by fragmented systems can defeat the best intentions
of government. It is up to those of us who implement the policies
to make sure that doesn’t happen and that new money really makes a
difference on the ground.”

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