UK Child Poverty Goals Unattainable

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LONDON — “The draft child poverty strategy was a missed opportunity and fell short of what was needed to reduce, or end child poverty in Britain,” said former health secretary Alan Milburn.

The child poverty strategy included a pledge to cut the number of children living in relative poverty by 10 percent by 2020, but now many lawmakers believe that it is doomed to fail.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission stated that the current UK child poverty goals were “simply unattainable” and that this was shaping up to be the first decade since 1961, when records were first kept, that did not see a fall in child poverty.

Right now it is predicted that approximately 3.5 million children will be living in poverty by 2020, almost five times the target number.

“Our new research shows that the gap between the objective of making child poverty history and the reality is becoming ever wider,” Milburn added. “Across the political spectrum, party leaders now need to come clean about what they plan to do to hit the targets, or what progress they can deliver if they expect to fall short.”

A report by the Commission by Landman Economics and the National Institute for Economic and Social Research stated that there would need to be an increase in the working hours of families in poverty, something many in Britain call implausible and “far more ambitious than had been achieved in the UK or anywhere else in the world.”

However, the report did reveal that the plan had achieved some progress, and commended extending childcare support to low-income families.

Yet, as the commission stated, these are “not enough” for the government to achieve its 2020 goals.

“The reality is that too many parents get stuck in working poverty, unable to command sufficient earnings to escape low income and cycling in and out of insecurity, short-term and low-paid employment with limited prospects,” the report stated.

The report goes on to claim that in order to hit the target number, the number of parents employed would have to be almost at 100 percent, something that could not occur under current policies. Also, even if parent employment were to increase, the target number would still be unattainable due to the decrease in earnings from 2010 to 2013.

Under the Child Poverty Act of 2010, passed by the Labor Party just before it left office, the government is committed to getting relative child poverty—the proportion of children living in households on below 60 percent median income—below 10 percent by 2020, and absolute child poverty—the proportion living in households below what 60 percent of median income was in 2010 — below 5 percent.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, stated that a big problem with the coalition was their decision to target austerity on children’s benefits and tax credits for families in low-paid work.

“It’s not fair to punish millions of families with children for an economic crisis caused by the banks,” said Garnham. “The government’s draft child poverty strategy needs a major revamp to make it credible, with a clear explanation of how targets are met.”

Sources: The Guardian, BBC
Photo: Wales Online

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Monica Newell

Monica is a BORGEN Magazine writer based in Midlothian, Virginia.

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