More support needed to end child poverty

More money is needed to eradicate child poverty, especially so in these recessionary times.

In 1999, the government pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, and half-a-million children have been lifted out of poverty since then. We fully endorse this promise, as well as current moves to enshrine this pledge in legislation through the Child Poverty Bill. We are now asking for increased support to build upon the significant progress made over the last decade, and make a difference to even more families across the country.

Urgent implementation of our “Recession Recovery Package” will help keep families out of debt, lift hundreds of thousands more children out of poverty, and support Britain’s economic recovery.

We are calling for additional financial support for families in benefits and tax credits in the Pre-Budget Report in November. Investing in benefits and tax credits is the fastest and most cost effective way to support families and children, and help them avoid debt. Around £4 billion – an addition of around £12.50 to Child Tax Credit for each child from low income families – would ensure that the 2010 target to halve child poverty is met.

For child poverty to be half as much in 2010/11 as it was in 1998/9, a further 600,000 children would need to be lifted out of poverty. This is a similar amount to the number that the Treasury estimates it has already taken out of poverty by increases in tax credits and benefits announced in 2007 and 2008, which cost about £2 billion. In principle, any further measures introduced in April 2010 could repeat this by raising tax credits and/or benefits further.

In practice, these calculations show that to do so will cost a lot more than a further £2 billion a year. They suggest that to get 600,000 children out of poverty in 2010 would cost £4.2 billion a year. This would raise the child element of the child tax credit by £12.50 a week more than planned. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the £25 billion which child poverty costs the economy each year.

Our one caveat is that the call for a means-tested benefits system could lead to even fewer families receiving funding, as a result of the complexity in identifying eligibility for qualification, and the potential reduction in take-up because of the stigma attached to the process.

Our other recommendations include a wider package that increases funding and access to the Social Fund grants; increases support for childcare costs; helps parents to work part time without losing benefits through an earnings disregard of £50 a week; and meets extra school costs such as extending entitlement to free school meals to families on Working Tax Credit, with a view to eventual universal entitlement, and a school clothes grant for unemployed families.

To push through our recommendations, we are urging the public to support the Recession Recovery Package for Families by contacting their MP, the Chancellor or their local newspaper.

Kate Green is chair of the Campaign to End Child Poverty

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