Child poverty in London: commission urges benefits changes

Government measures to tackle child poverty have failed in London where four in 10 children live in poverty, a report by the Independent Child Poverty Commission claimed today.

In response to its two-year study, the Commission called for a government minister to take lead responsibility for tackling child poverty in the capital, where 41% of children live in poverty compared with 29% in other areas of the UK.

It estimated that child poverty could be reduced by 10% if the government increased child tax credits nationally by £9 a week and increased child benefit for all children to the same level as allocated to the first child in a family.

The Commission, set up by the Mayor of London and London Councils in 2006, urged the government to increase tax credits in London by £20 a week and to give parents £5 extra per child, in the March 12 budget, if it is to meet its target to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.

Housing benefit extension

It also recommended that parents should continue receiving a fixed housing benefit for six months after they have moved into paid work, if they have claimed the benefit for over a year. 

The government’s definition of poverty is where a family lives on an income that is 60% of the national median income. For families in inner-London, the numbers of children living in poverty drops to one in every two.

The study, Capital Gains, argues that the key factors driving child poverty in London are high unemployment and lone parent households. It calls for a London minimum wage to cover higher housing and living costs, and  urges the London Skills and Employment Board to take action to develop career ladders for parents and first generation migrants, who work in low salary sectors. 

Unique opportunity

Carey Oppenheim, chair of the Commission, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives. But making an impact will only work if different players – government, employers or people working directly with families and children – act in concert.”

Merrick Cockell, chairman of London Councils, said eradicating children poverty was one of the “biggest challenges facing the capital” but it was achievable if everyone worked together.

More information

Independent Child Poverty Commission

Mayor of London

London Councils

London Skills and Employment Board

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