If the Government goes ahead with its plans to redefine child poverty then it will be turning its backs on poor children and on the past.
No redefinition can hide the reality that the Government’s child poverty strategy is failing. It was only a year ago that Iain Duncan Smith was claiming the child poverty targets would be met but last week’s child poverty statistics showed that absolute child poverty has risen by half a million since 2010 and that progress on relative poverty has stalled.
The child poverty figures released yesterday once again showed London still tops the league table of high child poverty rates but, more strikingly, highlighted the growing impact housing costs are having on poverty in the capital.
Today the government released the latest official poverty statistics (for 2013-14). Anyone aware of the projections made by the IFS and the NPI think tanks may be feeling slightly confused that, essentially, child poverty rates haven’t shifted on the previous year (although half a million more children are in absolute poverty than in 2010).
‘A strong society means moving forward together, no one left behind, fighting relative poverty a central policy goal.’ Well, Child Poverty Action Group would say that, wouldn’t they? In fact, these are the words of David Cameron, less than a decade ago, a day on which he also proclaimed: ‘I want this message to go out loud and clear: the Conservative party recognises, will measure and will act on relative poverty’.
Official figures due out tomorrow are projected to show a rise in child poverty – a trend independent experts suggest may continue over the next five years, as we move further and further away from the Government’s legal target to eliminate child poverty by 2020.
We really are living in the age of the permanent campaign. The general election was just weeks ago, but the main parties and political commentators have moved on and are looking at events through the lens of the 2020 election. Before that happens, it’s worth noting something pretty peculiar about the 2015 campaign.
Child benefit is one of the strongest tools we have in reducing poverty, and it is vital that it is protected. But it can’t do the job on its own. We urgently need a comprehensive, action-focused strategy for reducing and then ending child poverty. The road ahead is long, and so we must start by protecting what we already have.
On 25th June the Department for Work and Pensions will release updated figures on poverty, including child poverty, for 2013-14.
These figures were delayed until after the election, meaning the last government went into a General Election with child poverty figures available only up to the end of March 2013 – that’s before most of the austerity-driven benefit cuts had been implemented.
We know that up to two-thirds of the people turning to the foodbank for help are having problems with the benefits system. That’s why since August 2013, a CPAG adviser funded by the Pears Foundation has been working in a foodbank centre in Tower Hamlets, helping people resolve the benefit problems which have brought them there, and gathering evidence about how and why people use foodbanks.