A UNICEF report today shows the UK was successful in protecting children from poverty at the start of the financial crisis, but has slipped back under austerity.
Kate Green MP (Labour, Stretford and Urmston) is the shadow equalities minister
A UNICEF report (pdf) published today shows the UK was successful in protecting children from poverty in the early years of the financial crisis. But I’m very concerned this progress may be in jeopardy from the current austerity drive.
Before 2009, the Labour government’s wide-ranging approach to child poverty, encompassing measures like tax credits, cash transfers and accessible public services, was successful in reducing the risk of poverty for children living in workless, single parent or migrant families.
And when the financial crisis struck, Alistair Darling took the right steps to put money into families’ pockets, both to protect the economy and to insulate children from the effects of the downturn.
The coalition government has put that into reverse – with potentially devastating effects for children. Indeed, it seems children are falling off the agenda in the cause of deficit reduction.
Child poverty is a blight on the lives of too many innocent children. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child has the right to an adequate standard of living, and the government has a duty to make sure this right is met – and to use all available funds to do so.
Austerity measures that put family budgets under pressure and lead to cutbacks in essential public services threaten compliance with the Convention.
Sadly, the government seem oblivious. Measuring child poverty is an important part of managing it. The UNICEF report makes it clear the 2010 Child Poverty Act got it right, both in terms of setting ambitious targets and using a range of measures including relative child poverty.
The achievements in reducing child poverty over the past few years were in no small part the result of having the targets. So Ministers’ casual dismissal of their importance is a cause for great concern for the future.
• The coalition is actively increasing child poverty 11 Oct 2011
• How poor children will get poorer on Cameron’s watch 11 Oct 2011
We all know child poverty costs a nation heavily, through lower levels of health and education, higher unemployment and welfare dependence, and a loss of social cohesion. Helping children grow up free from poverty benefits all of society. Ministers must consider the impact their decisions are having on children, and take action to keep the UK on track to end child poverty by 2020.
We cannot let child poverty rise and we must not make children to suffer in the name of deficit reduction.