Budget 2011: The coalition must act on child poverty

Dominic Browne reports on Why the government must reverse its unfair policies that will hit the poor the hardest if the coalition is to make good on its child poverty pledges.

The Conservative party told told the electorate to judge their term in office by their record on tackling poverty; they continued to insist on this after the financial crisis of 2008 and as the size of the budget deficit facing Britain came into full view. According to the latest findings from the Campaign to End Child Poverty, founded by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), it appears the government is on course for a massive fail.

Local government cuts have fallen hardest on the poorest councils, deepening Britain’s horrendous levels of child poverty. At the extremes the report shows desperate unfairness.

Tower Hamlets is a local authority with a majority of children, 57 per cent, growing up in poverty. The Department for Communities and Local Government ranked it at the maximum reduction in spending powers. Compare this to the Isles of Scilly which has 4 per cent of children in poverty and was ranked at the lowest.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty report shows :

“Thirty seven councils stood to lose more than 8.9% of their spending power in 2011/12, but had their losses capped at this level in the transition arrangement.

“Four of these of these are among the five local authorities with the highest child poverty rates, but none are among the 130 local authorities (40 per cent of all authorities) with the lowest child poverty rates.” 

Alison Garnham, executive director of the campaign, said:

“The Campaign to End Child Poverty is calling for the chancellor to explain in the Budget how child poverty will be reduced and how parents can access jobs they can raise a family on.

“The Chancellor must tackle the jobs deficit and look again at unfair cuts to tax credits, child benefit and childcare support that will mean entering a job and staying in work is harder and less likely to make families better off.

“Child poverty costs us billions picking up the pieces of damaged lives and unrealised potential, so it’s a false economy if we don’t prioritise looking after children today.”

Left Foot Forward has previously highlighted the terrible levels of poverty throughout the UK and the task of dealing with the problem, here, here and here.

Ms Garnham added:

“The Campaign to End Child Poverty is calling for the Chancellor to explain in the Budget how child poverty will be reduced and how parents can access jobs they can raise a family on.”

This issue has become more not less pressing with news that inflation rose from 4.0% in January to 4.4% in February, biting into spending power particularly in the key areas of food and fuel costs.

In their coalition agreement the government said:

“We will maintain the goal of ending child poverty by 2020.”

This commitment to equality was enshrined by Labour in the Child Poverty Act 2010 which the Tories and Liberals voted for. However, they are in danger of doing its aims irreparable damage. The budget tomorrow gives them an opportunity to reverse this process – it’s an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.

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