Child poverty figures are bad news

Yesterday’s report on severe child poverty confirms DWP’s official poverty figures. Between 2004-05 and 2007-08 the number of children living in poverty increased.

Yesterday’s Save the Children report on severe child poverty makes for depressing reading, confirming what the DWP’s official poverty figures told us in June – between 2004-05 and 2007-08 the number of children living in poverty increased.

Save the Children highlight “poverty depth” as a key issue, defining this as living below 50 per cent of median income, and lacking in a range of key necessities. But this must not be taken to imply that for children normally defined as being below the poverty line, that is, living below 60 per cent of median income, this poverty is somehow not “severe”. We know that poverty defined in this way has a seriously detrimental impact on children’s life chances.

The Government argues that measures in the last two Budgets will lift another 500,000 children out of poverty by 2010. But the target to halve child poverty by this date will still be well out of reach. The Child Poverty Bill currently in Parliament means that Government must set out a strategy to ensure that the 2020 target for child poverty eradication is met. But it’s clear that progress needs to be much faster.

As the Save the Children report makes clear we know which children are at risk of poverty. Families without work, single parent families, large families, and those from minority ethnic groups are all significantly more likely to be poor. We also have a fairly good idea of what worked when poverty rates were falling – help for parents to find jobs, and investment in additional financial support for all families.

Additional financial support for families is unlikely to be a popular demand in a budget squeeze. But there is cross party support for meeting the 2020 target, and as the Save the Children report shows, tight finances in Government does not mean that family budgets have got any easier.

Our guest writer is Kate Bell, Director of policy, advice and communications at Gingerbread

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