IDS: poor parents spend money on alcohol and drugs rather than their children
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Iain Duncan Smith turns out for London Fashion Week
Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that some poor parents spend money on drugs and alcohol rather than their children.
The secretary of state for works and pensions made the claim during a speech on child poverty at the Kids Company charity in London.
The minister said: "For a poor family where the parents are suffering from addiction, giving them an extra pound in benefits might officially move them over the poverty line. But increased income from welfare transfers will not address the reason they find themselves in difficulty in the first place.
"Worse still, if it does little more than feed the parents' addiction, it may leave the family more dependent not less, resulting in poor social outcomes and still deeper entrenchment. What such a family needs is that we treat the cause of their hardship - the drug addiction itself."
But Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, accused IDS of avoiding the main causes of child poverty. She said: "With 5 million people paid less than the living wage, it is no surprise that official figures show children are much more likely to be in poverty because they have a parent who is a security guard, care worker or cleaner than a drug addict.
"The urgent problem today is the growing number of families making the difficult choice between heating and eating, resorting to food banks, or getting sucked into the spiral of rent arrears, pay day loans and debt. A central focus on family incomes has to remain, alongside a step change in government strategy on living wages, affordable housing and affordable childcare so that more families can balance their budgets and give their kids decent life chances."
IDS said that the current government would always stand by its "commitment" to tackle child poverty.
But he added: "Despite an unprecedented amount of spending, some £170 billion paid out in tax credits between 2003/04 and 2010, 70 percent of it on child tax credits...the 2010 target to halve child poverty was missed.
"Good intentions failed to translate into effective policies...for whilst moving a family from one pound below the poverty line to one pound above it might be enough on paper, it does not do enough to transform their lives.
"There must be a sustainable difference in the family’s life, or they simply risk slipping back into the poverty cycle... leaving the underlying causes unchecked.
"I believe that we need to focus on life change so that families are able to sustain the improvement in their lives beyond government money."
Responding to the speech, Family Action Head of Policy Rhian Beynon said: "Iain Duncan Smith must not sideline income poverty. The science is clear: nothing is more closely linked to the inequalities in children’s outcomes than relative income – that goes for children’s outcomes across the board: in health education and behaviour.
"This debate is a sideshow to Government measures pushing more families into poverty. We know from our work with disadvantaged and vulnerable families that services are a vital part of the mix when tackling poverty and improving children’s futures.
"However hard he tries to sideline relative income, money matters desperately to the families we support. Having enough income means food on the table and money in the meter for families.
"It means children not missing out on the essentials that their better off peers may have. We already have a child poverty measure – changing the goal posts will not benefit those families in and out of work struggling to keep their heads above water."