Has the government breached its child poverty obligations?

Ed Jacobs reports on the Tory-led government's weakness and possible failure on the crucial issue of tackling child poverty.

Following Dominic Browne’s article calling for further action to address the blight of child poverty, Left Foot Forward can reveal concerns that the government is about to breach its obligations under the Child Poverty Act 2010 despite its commitment to eradicating child poverty by 2020 as contained within the Coalition Agreement and the support of all parties for the legislation.

Under section 9 of the act, the government is obliged to publish a child poverty strategy every three years, outlining the measures it intends to take to meet its legal obligation to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

The legislation stipulates that the first strategy was due to be published within a year of it being passed by parliament, which would make today the final deadline.

Such a strategy however has not yet been published, as highlighted yesterday in Business Questions to the Leader of the House of Commons. Under sections 11 and 12, both the Northern Irish and Scottish Government are also obliged to produce such strategies, with the Welsh Assembly Government already legally obliged to do so under the terms of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010.

The act goes on, in section 8 to outline the establishment of an independent Child Poverty Commission, which the Government must consult in preparing its strategies.

Despite their legal obligations to a) publish a first strategy by today at the very latest and b) ensure that the strategy is scrutinised by the Child Poverty Commission, the lack of either a strategy or commission raises serious questions over whether the Government is in breach of its legal obligations.

Indeed, in response to a written parliamentary question earlier this week, work and pensions minister, Maria Miller made clear that the Government had still not established the details of how the Commission would work.

She said:

“We believe the Commission must have a remit which will allow it to hold Government to account and drive progress towards reducing child poverty. We cannot justify establishing an independent commission which does not perform these functions effectively.

“This is why we have chosen to consult with our stakeholders and to carefully consider how the Commission should be taken forward, rather than rushing to set it up. Our plans for establishing a Commission will be set out in the Child Poverty Strategy, to be published shortly.”

The fact remains however that the Government should have published their strategy and established the commission by now and yet haven’t.

In proposing the legislation at 2nd reading stage in 2009, the then work and pensions secretary, Yvette Cooper outlined why the Commission was so important, saying of the legislation:

“It establishes a commission of experts to advise us and help drive us forward. It will force Governments to come back to Parliament time and again to demonstrate the progress being made. It ultimately means that the Government will be at risk of action in the courts if they fail.”

And in its submission on the previous Government’s consultation on the act, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) concluded:

“CPAG supports the establishment of an expert commission, such a commission could not only offer policy advice and critique but help get buy-in across public, voluntary and private sectors.”

Despite its commitments to tackling child poverty, the lack of firm action by the government to meet its legal obligations under the Child Poverty Act raise serious questions over its commitment to tackling the scourge of child poverty.

Without the Commission, concerns will be raised that a more politically and ideologically driven strategy is more likely without the full scrutiny of experts.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, Kate Green MP, the former chief executive of CPAG and now a Labour member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee concluded:

“The child poverty act was passed with cross –party support last year, but now the Tory-led government have simply brushed it aside.

“It’s clear they don’t take seriously the need for adequate family incomes, and failing to set up a child poverty commission as they’re required to do under the act shows they’re not interested in listening to the advice of experts.

“Of course poverty isn’t just about incomes, but it’s ideology, not evidence, that is driving the government now.”

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11 Responses to “Has the government breached its child poverty obligations?”

  1. Jos Bell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has the government breached its child poverty obligations? http://bit.ly/ifQBHp by @EdJacobs1985

  2. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has the government breached its child poverty obligations? http://bit.ly/fEhEDN

  3. Tom

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has the government breached its child poverty obligations? http://bit.ly/ifQBHp by @EdJacobs1985

  4. Vishal

    Obligation?! Really? Do parents have responsibility when bringing children into this world? And can poverty only be measured by an arbitrarily selected level of income? What did Labour/the Left do in 13 years in power? Give people £10 extra over the line and this ‘cures’ child poverty? Support the family unit instead – and stop being so shameless and hypocritical.

  5. yorkierosie

    RT @leftfootfwd: Has the government breached its child poverty obligations? http://bit.ly/ifQBHp by @EdJacobs1985

  6. Timbo

    Vishal, the income level in the child poverty act is not arbitrary, it is related to minimum income standards in fact it falls below it according to Joseph Rowntree research. And there are in any case 4 dimensions measured in the act – relative poverty, absolute poverty, persistent poverty and material deprivation. If you think an extra £10 a week doesn’t make a difference you’ve clearly never lived in poverty. Research shows that financial problems are often a major aggravator of relationship breakdown. If you are reading this blog you should know it is evidence based. But the evidence seems besides the point to you.

  7. 13eastie

    Child poverty was famously Gordon Brown’s personal hobby horse and one which he rocked self-righteously for thirteen years in government.

    UNICEF voted the UK the worst developed country in the world in which to raise children in 2007 and the Child Poverty Action Group named Great Britain similarly one of the worst in Europe in 2009.

    Labour’s record on this front is disastrous, failing spectacularly to come anywhere near its own targets while in power.

    It would be folly to heed anything Ms Green has to say on the subject.

  8. Stephen McKay

    Is the govt breaching terms of Child Poverty Act 2010? http://bit.ly/fhDr0j (i.e. first strategy document is late)

  9. Daniel Pitt

    Has the coalition breached its child poverty obligations? http://bit.ly/ifQBHp #ConDemNation

  10. mayAngel'scry;

    Is the govt breaching terms of Child Poverty Act 2010? http://bit.ly/fhDr0j (i.e. first strategy document is late)

  11. How poor children will get poorer on Cameron's watch | Left Foot Forward

    […] Has the government breached its child poverty obligations? – Ed Jacobs, March 25th […]

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