Campaign groups have expressed disappointment that a UK-wide legal duty to end child poverty by 2020, published today, has been set at “unambitious” levels.
The cross-departmental Child Poverty Bill would set a target of reducing the proportion of children living in households in relative poverty to 10% by 2020.
The government had previously suggested it would set a target of 5%.
Warnings over 2010 target
The Institute for Fiscal Studies warned earlier this year the government looks certain to miss its goal to halve the number of children in living in relative poverty by 2010-11. It said it would cost an extra £37bn a year in benefits and tax credits to reduce child poverty to 5% by 2020.
Latest figures show over 22% of children are living in relative poverty according to the government’s measure – the number living in households earning 60% of the median income before housing costs are taken into account.
5% ‘should be target’
The National Children’s Bureau said that as Denmark, Sweden and Finland had already reached 5% the UK should be striving to do the same.
Paul Ennals, NCB chief executive, said: “In our current economic climate, never before has ending child poverty been more important. The further into recession we get, we see the numbers falling below the poverty line increasing, and those children and young people already living in poverty and hardship further down the scale.”
Charity Barnado’s also said eradicating child poverty should not be affected by the financial downturn. Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey said: “This bill has good potential, but it cannot have get-out clauses – such as the one in the consultation paper – that progress would depend on ‘overall affordability’.
“Yes, we are living in tough economic times, but tackling child poverty has to be on top of the government’s ‘to do’ list.
Bill ‘must not be fig leaf for failure’
“If this bill is to be more than a fig leaf for failure the government must help hard pressed families now and stay on track to meet its 2010 target to halve child poverty as well as its 2020 goal.
The bill would set a UK-wide child poverty strategy, including duties for local authorities and partner agencies to work together to help to lift children out of poverty. It would also require government to report to parliament each year on progress and creates a new expert Child Poverty Commission to publish advice and encourage progress.