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Government's plans to redefine child poverty criticised

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Government's plans to redefine child poverty criticised

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Finance, Health

Government's plans to redefine child poverty criticised Government's plans to redefine child poverty criticised

The Goverment's plans to redefine child poverty have been citicised by a charity that believes ministers should be concentrating on fighting it.

Speaking ahead of a new consultation on how best to measure child poverty, the CEO of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Alison Garnham, said that the Government should be rethinking its decisions rather than working on redefinitions.

The Government says that it remains "committed to ending child poverty" and that recent stats showed that it had "moved 300,000 out of relative income poverty".

CPAG claims that there are currently 3.6 million children living in poverty in the UK today - 27% of the country's children.

The Government believes that the current definition for relative poverty - living on below 60% of the median income - does not give an accurate reading of the situation in the UK today.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, will launch the consultation today at Clyde Children’s Centre in Deptford, South East London. In his speech he will say: "Across the UK, there are children living in circumstances that simply cannot be captured by assessing whether their household has more or less than 60% of the average income.

"There are many factors that impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to succeed in life.

"Whilst the Child Poverty Act does include a range of measures, a disproportionate focus on relative income does little to represent the experience of those in poverty.

"As we saw earlier this year – when the child poverty level dropped by 2% – a fall in the median income may lift a family out of poverty on paper.

"Yet at a closer look, real incomes did not rise and absolute poverty was unchanged.

"For the 300,000 children no longer in poverty according to the official statistics, life was no different."

Alison Garnham said: “The projected rises in child poverty over the next few years, after a decade in which the UK's child poverty reductions were the largest in the OECD, are terrifying for anyone who has a heart for children or a head for the nation's finances.

"Rather than spending £25 billion every year living with the social and economic fallout of child poverty, ministers should be moving heaven and earth to protect children from cuts and prevent child poverty happening in the first place.”

CPAG also highlights the long-lasting effects of child poverty. It claims that by 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE than their wealthier peers. Leaving school with fewer qualifications, it notes, translates into lower earnings over the course of a working life.

Alison Garnham continued: “Six in ten poor children live in a working family. Children are much more likely to be in poverty because they have a parent who is a security guard or a cleaner than one who is a drug addict or 'feckless' so any future child poverty strategy has to be balanced and show the Coalition is on the side of these families.

“These parents are some of the hardest working people in the country, working the longest hours, for the lowest pay and with the highest aspirations for themselves and their children. We owe them and their children a helping hand to ensure they aren’t condemned to working-poverty.”

David Laws, Minister of State for Schools, added: "Traditionally we have defined poverty simply by income. But this is not enough. The experience of child poverty is about more than whether their family income this week is low.

"This consultation is not about abandoning the past. Nor is it about massaging the figures. It is instead about recognising the many dimensions of child poverty and concentrating policy on longer term solutions and not on short term fixes."

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