The government must commit an extra £3bn in benefits and improve childcare measures if child poverty is to be halved by 2010, campaigners said today.
The calls were made following news that 100,000 more children fell into poverty for the second year running in 2007.
Overall numbers in England rose to 2.9 million in 2006-7, up from 2.8 million in 2005-6. When housing costs are taken into account, these rose to 3.9 million, up from 3.8 million in 2005-6.
Critics say this places Tony Blair’s 1999 pledge to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020 further out of reach.
The Institute for Public Policy Research said the poorest children were either growing up in households where no one was in paid employment, or where the working parents did not earn enough to lift their children out of poverty.
The working parents’ plight is compounded by smaller rises in the average wage-packet in recent years, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
A spokesperson for the Child Poverty Action Group said the answer was to invest an annual £3bn in child benefits, and match the levels of the youngest child with that of the oldest, which is £5 more.
IFS researcher David Phillips said an extra £2.8bn a year in child tax credits by 2010-11 would give the government a 50:50 chance of meeting its target.
More financial support for childcare must be given to parents of disabled children who wish to work, according to Every Disabled Child Matters. Steve Broach, campaign manager, said the upper childcare limit within working tax credits should be increased to £300 for disabled children, given that specialist childcare is five times more expensive.
Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman Jenny Willott said the 2010 child poverty target was “looking increasingly unachievable”, and the figures raised “serious questions about the government’s spending priorities”.
Giving evidence to the DCSF committee on Monday, chief secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper, said the government was committed to “supporting children growing up on the lowest income” but refused to “speculate” on the content of the next pre-budget report, due in October.
Expert guide to child poverty