Child poverty tsar appointed

Children’s charities and campaign groups have welcomed the appointment of a child poverty tsar following the government’s failure to meet its own poverty targets.

Lisa Harker, who previously worked for Save the Children and the Child Poverty Action Group, has been recruited by the Department of Work and Pensions as an independent adviser on child poverty.

In 1999 the government pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, but missed its target to cut child poverty by a quarter by 2005. DWP minister Jim Murphy said: “If we are to meet our ambitious targets we need to bring some fresh thinking into play and additional ideas to support more families out of poverty.

“We have asked Lisa to review DWP policies and agencies to consider what more we can do.”

Murphy made the announcement four days after a “three sector summit”, attended by Tony Blair, at which senior government figures pushed forward plans to increase the role of charities and private organisations in public sector delivery.

An advisory panel of “academics and stakeholders” has also been set up to help Harker in her new role. Colette Marshall, UK director of Save the Children and panel member, said: “The appointment of Lisa Harker as child poverty tsar is a step in the right direction.

“Save the Children was deeply frustrated by the government’s failure to meet the first child poverty milestone and has long been calling for better co-ordination of child poverty policies.”

Response from leading children’s charity NCH was more cautious. Chief executive Clare Tickell welcomed the appointment, but commented: “Rather than just focusing on reducing numbers, priority must be given to helping those who are hardest to reach.

“There are pockets of extreme poverty in rural Britain that are often overlooked.  Creating services and support for families in these disparate and hidden corners is a challenge that must be urgently faced.”

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