The government is unlikely to meet its target to halve child poverty by 2010.
With just over a week before the 12 March budget, a productivity study by the Department for Work and Pensions said the targets, set by the government in 1999, were unlikely to be “fully met” despite “effective policies”.
The report stated: “Other targets have become more challenging than originally envisaged because of economic and demographic changes. For example, higher average incomes for all households and trends towards more lone parents living on their own with their children work against the target to reduce the number of children in relatively low income and workless households.”
However, MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee argued today (Monday 3 March) that the 2010 target could still be met if the government “accelerate its efforts” by committing to further packages of support and investment.
The Committee’s second report of the 2007-8 session, The Best Start in Life?, calls for further investment in good quality, flexible childcare, tax credits, and support for lone parents to move into sustainable work without getting trapped by “in-work poverty”.
It predicts the government will miss the 2010 target by one million children, out of the 2.8 million who currently live in poverty.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the government needs to invest an additional £3.4bn into child tax credits if it is to meet the 2010 target. Without this money, it will miss the first target to halve child poverty by 700,000 children.
But Mike Brewer, programme director Direct Tax and Welfare at IFS, said the only way it will find this extra money is through tax rises.
“There’s a real feeling among my colleagues that the 2010 target will be missed because ultimately the government has to find the money and there is not an unlimited pot,” said Brewer.
Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, called for “bold action in next week’s Budget”.
Green added: “We know that extra investment in the poorest families incomes of £3.4bn should ensure the government keeps its promise of halving child poverty by 2010. It’s a significant sum, but not unaffordable. Even though public finances are tight, ministers have told child poverty campaigners that when the going gets tough you redouble your efforts.”
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