Spell out the issue

The Child Poverty Action Group (Cpag) must be hoping its new
chief executive Kate Green will weave the same magic for them as
she did for her previous employer. Just four months after she took
the top job at One Parent Families in 2000, Harry Potter author JK
Rowling declared herself an ambassador for lone parents, and not
only spoke out powerfully on behalf of lone parents but raised
substantial sums for the charity itself.

The move to Cpag was a natural one for Green. While she was at
its helm, One Parent Families and Cpag worked closely together –
indeed it was JK Rowling who wrote the the two charities’s
joint report on reforming the social fund.

Green started her career at Barclay’s Bank, and then went
to the Home Office.

She moved to London from Scotland in the early 1980s, just as
Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies were starting to bite.
So what led her to change the course of her career?

“I’ve had a longstanding wish to live in a fair and just
society where everyone has the best start in life. I think growing
up in Scotland too, there was some sense of cohesive community, and
an understanding of the value of shared prosperity.

“Moving from Scotland to London, I was really struck by the huge
gulf between rich and poor. The 1980s were a distressing time –
people couldn’t find work and there were dreadful divisions
opening up. I was working for a bank, and we saw family businesses
going under.”

So what difference does Green plan to make at Cpag. “More of the
same” is her reply, but with a strong stress on the more. “This is
such a crucial time. We have got to be out there making our points
loudly and clearly. The big moment of political opportunity is
going to be the next 18 months.”

Green is clear that huge steps have been made in reducing child
poverty, and remains impressed that the government has pledged
itself to eliminate child poverty in 20 years. Her concern now is
that the momentum is not only maintained, but is stepped up. “It is
a terrifically brave target, but the difficulty will be that the
closer you get to it the more difficult it will become to meet it.”
Measures to get people into employment are likely to have most
impact in the early stages with people who are relatively easy to
reach. As time goes on, the children who remain in poverty are
likely to be in families where the adults find it harder to obtain

Gordon Brown in his foreword to the Treasury’s recent
Child Poverty Review acknowledges that the next stage is even more
challenging. The review sets out measures, including providing more
child care places and services for disadvantaged children, more
investment in social housing, and improving child maintenance for
lone parent. The review also mentions a “long term aspiration” of
improving financial support for large families. Research has
established that child poverty is closely related to size of

Cpag is concerned to make sure that people are getting the
benefits they are entitled to – especially tax credits. Green would
also like to see an increase in child benefit which is popular and
easy to administer, and action to ensure that work really does pay
for families. This means increasing the minimum wage, and ensuring
that benefits are not reduced too sharply when people start work.
The social fund is still failing to make sure families with
children can get necessities when they need it, and the government
has so far failed to make the child maintenance system work because
of IT problems, she says.

Green’s influence spreads far beyond the Cpag and its
work. She is trustee and treasurer of the National Family and
Parenting Institute, a magistrate in the City of London, a member
of both the government’s employer-led National Employment
Panel, and of the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ council, and a
trustee of The Avenues youth project in Queens Park, London. Not to
mention of course her role behind the scenes at the Ministry of

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