Poor children may benefit more from better public services than increased benefits, says think tank

Improving public services for poor children might have a greater
impact on their welfare than increasing their parents’
income, according to a new report.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies says that if the government is
to meet its 2004-5 target of reducing child poverty according to
its current definition, it will have to spend another £1
billion on the child tax credit. Increases in other benefits or tax
credits could also reduce child poverty, but would cost more.

But by using a measure of poverty defined wholly by family
income, the government may skew its own policy response, says the
IFS. Increasing tax credits and means tested benefits may be less
beneficial to children in poverty than providing better public

For example, according to the report the extra money needed to
meet the government’s 2004–5 target for reducing child
poverty could instead be used to double the coverage of the Sure
Start programme,which aims to improve the health and well being of
families and young children in disadvantaged areas.

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