Mayor Boris Johnson, councils leaders and ministers today announced a joint target to boost parental employment in capital in order to tackle its high levels of child poverty.
Johnson, children’s minister Beverley Hughes, Treasury minister Stephen Timms, welfare reform minister Tony McNulty and London Councils chair Merrick Cockell pledged to work together to raise parental employment in London from 69.3% to 72.3% from 2008-13.
A quarter of London’s children live below the government’s poverty line – which covers households receiving 60% of median income before housing costs are taken into account – compared with 22% across England.
One of the reasons for the gap is higher rates of parental unemployment, with 22.7% of children living in workless households in the capital, compared to 15.4% in the rest of the UK.
Agencies will focus on increasing the number of mothers in part-time work, take-up of child tax credits and the use of formal childcare in order to meet the target.
The indicator will be monitored by a new London Child Poverty Delivery Group.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative, McNulty said London was “flatlining” in terms of addressing child poverty. He said it was “simply not good enough” to delay taking action because of the economic downturn. He later told Community Care inaction would leave parents further away from the labour market when the economy recovered.
In February 2008, the London Child Poverty Commission, set up by London Councils and former capital mayor Ken Livingstone to examine the city’s high poverty rates, published a report with a series of proposals..
The target announced today is ministers’ response to the commission’s first recommendation – to set explicit objectives to reduce child poverty in London.
In a report published alongside today’s announcement, from a ministerial working group on child poverty in London, the government said it was taking or considering action on most of the commission’s recommendations.
London minimum wage
However, it rejected some, including the commission’s call for a London minimum wage – above the national minimum of £5.73 an hour. The government said this would increase the costs of monitoring the minimum wage, could cut employment levels and would benefit people other than families in poverty.
The rejection follows Johnson’s decision to increase the London Living Wage, established by the Greater London Authority, from £7.20 to £7.45 an hour and ensure that all GLA agencies and their contractors pay it to their staff.
He today revealed that Hughes had signed the Department for Children, Schools and Families up to the London living wage and that Timms and McNulty were considering doing the same for the Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions.
However, McNulty later told Community Care that the London wage was a “totemic red herring” and that lone parents on the minimum wage, earning tax credits would be able to receive the at least the same levels of income.