The government’s child poverty strategy needs to be more child-focused, more poverty-focused, and more strategic
This week, the official consultation closed on, potentially, the Coalition’s most important social policy objective– the new child poverty strategy.
Running from 2014-17, the draft strategy covers the critical period during which we’d expect to see a big push to meet the statutory target to end child poverty by 2020 – especially given Iain Duncan Smith’s recent reaffirmation that he both remains committed to the target, and expects it to be met.
The UK’s social security system has long recognised that benefit levels are not sufficient for claimants to build up savings and manage unexpected or one-off costs. However, from April 2015, there will be no source of funding for this.
It’s hardly news that the incomes of poorer families have been squeezed until the pips squeak. Declining real wages, underemployment and cuts to social security have all combined to drive down the living standards of those at the bottom of the income distribution in recent years. But low-incomes families have had to contend with another downward pressure that until yesterday we may have intuited, but hadn’t yet seen fully evidenced.
Measures, measures everywhere and not a drop of sense. This morning George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith put their new child poverty strategy out to consultation with the claim that they have reduced child poverty by 300,000 to date, while at the same time denigrating the yardstick they appear to be performing so well against. So what exactly is going on with respect to child poverty in the UK?
London is the child poverty capital of the UK, with more poor children living in London than in Wales and Scotland combined. These numbers are driven up by a jobs market that is not working for mothers.
No one denies that Rachel Reeves, as Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, has one of the toughest gigs in town. Fiscally, it seems a Labour government would cap spending on social security. Politically, at a time when highly punitive policies such as the benefit cap attract broad public support, Labour is sensitive to proposing any reform that could be spun as "soft on scroungers". Getting the politics and the economics right will not be easy.
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