The government seems certain to miss its target of halving child poverty by 2010-11, after the number of deprived young people failed to fall for the third consecutive year.
In 2007-8, there were 2.9m children living below the government’s chosen poverty line – households with incomes below 60% of the median before housing costs – the same figure as in 2006-7.
Child poverty rose in the previous two years, while today’s figures mean that levels were no lower in 2007-8 than in 2002-3.
Target to halve child poverty
The government is committed to halving child poverty from 3.4m to 1.7m from 1998-9 to 2010-1.
Economic and social policy experts the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the government had reduced child poverty by around 60,000 a year from 1998-9 to 2007-8, but would now need to cut it by 400,000 a year to meet its target.
The IFS said that last month’s Budget would have needed to increase spending on tax credits and benefits by £4bn a year to give ministers a chance of hitting the target, but the government only committed to increase spending by £0.2bn.
Funding unlikely to be found
It added: “Given the state of the public finances, it seems unlikely that the government will find the remaining £4bn needed in the 2009 pre-budget report.”
The Budget included plans for a £20 increase in the child element of the child tax credit – paid to families on low incomes – which campaigners condemned as amounting to less than the cost of a pint of milk a week.
Following today’s figures, End Child Poverty director Hilary Fisher said: “Progress has been made on child poverty but the UK is way off track on its targets and Budget 2009 invested less than a pint of milk per week per child in family incomes and so did nothing to narrow the gap.”
Serious investment required
Dr Paul Dornan, head of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Families are suffering now and need help now. A serious investment is urgently needed to support the poorest families. Even in the current economic situation it is affordable and one of the surest ways of boosting the economy.”
On campaigners’ chosen measure – the numbers living in households below 60% of the median after housing costs are taken into account – child poverty actually rose in 2007-8, from 3.9m to 4m.
Pensioner poverty stalls
There was also no fall in pensioner poverty, with 2.5m living in households below 60% of median incomes before housing costs, the same as in 2006-7, and equivalent to the 2002-3 level.