On 26th June, 2014the government published their Child Poverty Strategy, aiming to end child poverty by 2020 by “breaking the cycle of disadvantage based on the principle that where someone starts in life should not determine where they end up.”
The newly-published strategy follows the government’s publication from 2011, A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Causes of Disadvantage and Transforming Families’ Lives, which was the government’s first Child Poverty Strategy, setting out a new approach to tackling poverty and securing social justice.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“This strategy outlines our commitment to tackling the root causes of poverty and delivering lasting change that makes a real difference to children’s life chances.
“Despite tough economic times over the last few years, we’ve introduced reforms to the welfare system that are transforming the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. As part of the government’s long-term economic plan we are supporting more families into work, improving living standards and raising educational attainment.
“Work remains the best route out of poverty and with the economy now growing again we have more people in work than ever before, as well as fewer children in workless households than at any time since records began. These children now not only have a wage-earner in the household, but perhaps even more importantly, they also have a role model to look up to.”
The Child Poverty Action group proclaimed the figures for children in poverty rose from 3.6million to 4.1million from 2011 to 2013. Trade Union Congress secretary General Frances O’Grady stated:
“While wages have stagnated, and benefits and tax credits have been cut, prices have been rising – especially the cost of housing.
“Since the last election a million more adults and half a million more children fell into absolute poverty when housing costs are taken into account. Without a major affordable home building program and action to secure fair wages, this type of poverty will continue to grow.”
What’s been done?
- Since 2010, employment has increased by almost 1.7million with record numbers of people in work.
- The number of children in workless households has decreased by 290,000.
- There has been a 7% increase in poor children achieving 5 good GCSEs including English and maths increasing from 31%.
Of the progress since 2010, David Laws, Schools Minister, said,
“It is impossible to overstate the impact poverty can have on a child’s education.
“I am proud of the progress we have already made – investing £3.75 billion in the Pupil Premium, being used by schools to close the attainment gap and we have now extended the Pupil Premium to 3 and 4 year olds. In addition, from September all infant school children will receive a healthy meal for free, to make sure they are ready to learn and can get the most from their time at school.
“Poorer children are doing better than ever at school but still more than 6 out of 10 still fail to secure good grades. We are determined to improve the prospects of all children so that they have the best possible opportunities later in life.”
What are they planning to do?
The following actions are set out in the strategy to tackle child poverty over the next three years.
Supporting families into work by:
- helping businesses to create jobs
- helping people to take up work through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the Work Programme and the Troubled Families Programme
- making work pay and having clearer work incentives through introducing Universal Credit, with more help for childcare
- tackling low pay by raising the minimum wage and the personal tax allowance, continuing to lift low-income families out of the tax system
- helping people move on to better jobs and improving the qualifications of parents through adult apprenticeships, investing in English and maths and helping parents through the National Careers Service
- reducing energy, extending the Warm Home Discount and helping people to make their homes more energy efficient
- capping the bills of low-income families with 3 or more children on a water meter and promoting social tariffs
- reducing food costs for low-income families through introducing free school meals for all infant school pupils alongside Healthy Start Vouchers for young children, breakfast clubs in deprived areas, and free fruit and vegetables at school for primary school children
- reducing transport costs for low-income families
- increasing access to affordable credit for low income families through expanding credit unions
Reducing costs to support people’s living standards by:
- increasing the number of poor children getting quality pre-school education
- introducing an Early Years Pupil Premium to help ensure 3 and 4 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds get the best start in life
- ensuring poor children do better at school by giving disadvantaged pupils an additional £14,000 throughout their school career – a £2.5 billion a year commitment through the Pupil Premium
- supporting poor children to stay in education post-16 through training, apprenticeships, and better careers advice
- helping parents provide the best possible home environment by supporting parenting classes and providing free books to poor families
- helping parents who experience mental health issues, investing in drug and alcohol dependency treatment and supporting young carers
- increasing support for children with Special Educational Needs
Raising educational attainment by:
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, stated,
“Today’s child poverty statistics highlight the inconvenient truths for the government that maintaining the value of social security support helps protect families with children from poverty and that work isn’t working for far too many families.
“Child poverty already costs Britain £29 billion a year,” she said. “It’s good to hear that the government says it is sticking to its promise to end child poverty but its strategy simply isn’t delivering. We need actions that improve the childhoods and life chances of poorer children, not just words.”