Tackling child poverty: the story so far

The last Labour government lifted nearly one million children out of poverty through an austute mix of income support and vital services, says a new report.

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Lindsay Judge is Senior Policy and Research Officer at the Child Poverty Action Group.

Over recent weeks, the impressive reductions in child poverty that we have observed in the UK over the last decade have been depicted by some as the product of a one-dimensional strategy. Labour managed to reduce child poverty by over 900,000 children, it is argued, simply by pumping money into the social security budget and increasing benefits to unsustainable levels.

As our new report being published today shows, this is a misrepresentation of past strategy. The last decade was indeed marked by efforts to support the incomes of those at the bottom of the distribution, but this was complemented by large investments in public services. Contributors to the report highlight the critical role played by the Sure Start programme, the Decent Homes initiative, the National Childcare Strategy and educational investments in improving the lives of poorer children over the last decade.

Richard Titmuss famously claimed that “services for the poor will always be poor services”, but the progressive universalist approach of the Labour years appears to have neatly side-stepped this trap. As Naomi Eisenstadt, the first Director of Sure Start, points out, the programme was broadly conceived and was never intended to solely target the most disadvantaged children.

In fact, its reach was both widened and deepened over time: widened because government realised that many children in need of its services did not live in low-income families, and deepened when it became clear that the programme should do more to reach out to children who were excluded by poverty.

 


See also:

How Labour saved 2 million children from poverty 12 June 2012

Pickles’ plan to deal with ‘120,000 trouble families’ in a tailspin 11 June 2012

Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda 31 May 2012

Child poverty: Absolute and relative 30 May 2012

UK success on child poverty threatened by austerity programme 29 May 2012


 

The report captures other useful lessons with respect to service design. It should come as no surprise that the most effective services are those that address the real priorities of low-income families, rather than the concerns projected onto them by policy makers.

Ann Power documents the way that community regeneration programmes over the last decade have done just this: through repairing buildings, for example, rather than knocking them down; and by employing local people as community wardens, park keepers, play assistants and community police officers.

Yet no matter how well-designed and delivered services are, our report shows that they cannot substitute for an adequate family income. Donald Hirsch’s chapter on education points out that analysis of cohort studies in the UK identifies poverty as an independent factor affecting educational outcomes.

Put simply, children do not get the most out of schools when their parents cannot afford uniforms, school trips or a computer at home. Likewise, Eva Lloyd’s analysis of early years provision suggests that the benefits of the future planned expansions of services may be undermined by falling family incomes.

Political debate in the UK increasingly pits services against income support, suggesting that it is better services that will end child poverty rather than increases to family incomes. The experts in our report disagree: an adequate income remains a necessary, if not sufficient condition for eliminating child poverty. Poor children need services that are broadly targeted, high quality and responsive to their concerns for sure, but they can only derive full benefit from such provision if their family incomes are adequate too.

 


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39 Responses to “Tackling child poverty: the story so far”

  1. Anne Greensmith

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/Qs7LfZJj by @CPAGUK

  2. Declan Gaffney

    CPAG: 'an adequate income remains a necessary, if not sufficient condition for eliminating child poverty.' http://t.co/yFNEwMUQ

  3. Jill Hayward

    CPAG: 'an adequate income remains a necessary, if not sufficient condition for eliminating child poverty.' http://t.co/yFNEwMUQ

  4. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/J6l3EmYy

  5. Pulp Ark

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  6. NewsatLeft

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/eCgnY3Pl #GoodSociety #childpoverty #ChildPovertyActionGroup

  7. Michael

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far – http://t.co/22TT2Duo

  8. Political Planet

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far: The last Labour government lifted nearly one million children out of p… http://t.co/ijYQkONP

  9. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/BUaTLd7C by @CPAGUK #NewsClub

  10. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/IHLyRJXe by @CPAGUK #NewsClub

  11. gail simmons

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/BUaTLd7C by @CPAGUK #NewsClub

  12. Debbie Jolly

    RT @TheRightArticle Tackling child poverty: the story so far – http://t.co/LFEH4xLK

  13. PCS North Staffs

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/Qs7LfZJj by @CPAGUK

  14. Mary Graham

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/Qs7LfZJj by @CPAGUK

  15. Anonymous

    An investment either leads to savings, or to increased income.

    Have your investments worked and if so, what savings in spending are to be made?

    How much money was borrowed for these investments?

    What income do these investments generate?

  16. thaedis

    RT @redjolly1 RT @TheRightArticle Tackling child poverty: the story so far – http://t.co/dDmm48z7

  17. Anonymous

    How about dealing with the biggest cost of someone on minwage?

    3,000 a year in taxes for their employment?

    Ah yes, I think I get it. You’re desperate for that money because you’re employed to ‘help’ them. Without the 3K, you wouldn’t be employed, and they would be better off.

  18. Joseph Rowntree Fdn.

    Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/BwUHWxAM via @LeftFootFwd #ukpoverty

  19. Joseph Rowntree Fdn.

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  20. childrensrights.ie

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  21. childrensrights.ie

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  22. Welfare Update

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  23. Welfare Update

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  24. Mahmoona Shah

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  25. Mahmoona Shah

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  26. Richard Bridge

    @CPAGUK report spot on : adequate income is necessary but not sufficient condition to address #ChildPoverty http://t.co/7c97SrVu

  27. Richard Bridge

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  28. The Policy Press

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  29. The Policy Press

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  30. Eamonn Zaidan

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  31. Eamonn Zaidan

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  32. @GrannyWils

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  33. @GrannyWils

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  34. marina monteith

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  35. Marzia Gitto

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  36. nosapience

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  37. Government won't reach its target on reducing child poverty | Left Foot Forward

    […] and universal credit prove to be, the government has set itself a tough test. See also: • Tackling child poverty: the story so far 13 Jun […]

  38. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tackling child poverty: the story so far http://t.co/oISVwyiP

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