Child poverty rose again last year while pensioner poverty has also risen, ministers said today.
The Department for Work and Pensions said latest figures showed there were 2.9m children in relative poverty in 2006-7, up by 100,000 in 2005-6; when housing costs are taken into account, the figure in poverty rose to 3.9m, up from 3.8m in 2005-6. Relative poverty encompasses households earning below 60% of median incomes.
The news means child poverty has risen for two years in succession, leaving the government even further from its target of halving numbers from 1998-9 to 2010-11. However, today’s figures do not take account of measures to reduce child poverty included in this year’s Budget.
Among pensioners, relative poverty rose by 300,000 to 2.5m before housing costs and by 200,000 to 2.1m after housing costs from 2005-6 to 2006-7.
Defending its record, the government said that child poverty had fallen by 600,000 before housing costs and 500,000 after housing costs from 1998-9 to 2006-7; and pensioner poverty had fallen by 200,000 before housing costs and 900,000 after housing costs.
However, it admitted the figures were disappointing.
Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, called on the government to show “political courage” and invest £3bn in reducing child poverty in this year’s pre-budget report, due in October.
She added: “We all know that the 2010 target can be met. We all know that even in tight Budget years, funding for the most important needs can be found. Failure in 2010 would not be due to a lack of national wealth, but a lack of moral leadership.”
Mervyn Kohler, special adviser for Help the Aged, said the government should be “mortified” by the pensioner poverty rise. He added: “When older people live on a fixed income it is virtually impossible for them to pull themselves out of poverty. Pensioners often have to cut back on essential household items, just to survive. This is a disgrace.”
He reiterated Help the Aged’s call for means-tested benefits to be paid automatically to older people, saying £5bn currently went unclaimed by pensioners.