New UK child poverty strategy 'ignores impact of government's welfare reforms'
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UK child poverty strategy 'ignores impact of government's welfare reforms'
The Child Poverty Action Group has accused the government of ignoring the impact of its welfare reforms in drawing up its new child poverty strategy.
Launched by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the new strategy has identified supporting families into work, improving living standards and raising educational attainment as the fundamental ways to achieve the long-term goal of ending child poverty by 2020.
But the CPAG's chief executive Alison Garnham said the strategy lacked "clear actions, mnilestones and progress measures" and "ignored" projections suggesting child poverty would see the steepest rise in a generation in the coming years.
Garnham said: “We welcome the government’s continued commitment to ending child poverty by 2020 but today’s strategy isn’t good news for a generation of children that needs the government to invest in their childhoods and life chances.
“The strategy does not add up to being a plan to end child poverty. It ignores independent projections which suggest the UK is heading for the steepest rise in child poverty for a generation. Crucially, it fails to set out clear actions, milestones and progress measures that would set child poverty on a downward trend.
“Worryingly, half of those who responded to the government’s strategy consultation raised concerns about the impact of welfare reform on low income families. Rather than take these views on board, the government looks set to continue with policies that experts show are impoverishing families across the UK.
“Child poverty already costs Britain £29bn a year. The costs of child poverty will rise unless successive governments implement child poverty strategies that do more than promote jobs but also tackle low pay, promote affordable housing and childcare and help families with the added costs of children.”
But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith disagreed, saying: "This strategy outlines our commitment to tackling the root causes of poverty and delivering lasting change that makes a real difference to children’s life chances.
"Despite tough economic times over the last few years, we’ve introduced reforms to the welfare system that are transforming the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. As part of the government’s long-term economic plan we are supporting more families into work, improving living standards and raising educational attainment.
"Work remains the best route out of poverty and with the economy now growing again we have more people in work than ever before, as well as fewer children in workless households than at any time since records began. These children now not only have a wage-earner in the household, but perhaps even more importantly, they also have a role model to look up to."
Actions set out in the strategy which the government are taking from 2014 to 2017 to tackle child poverty include the following:
Supporting families into work by:
- Helping businesses to create jobs
- Helping people to take up work through Jobcentre Plus and schemes such as the Work Programme and the Troubled Families Programme
- Making work pay and having clearer work incentives through introducing universal credit, with more help for childcare
- Tackling low pay by raising the minimum wage and the personal tax allowance, continuing to lift low-income families out of the tax system
- Helping people move on to better jobs and improving the qualifications of parents through adult apprenticeships, investing in English and maths and helping parents through the National Careers Service
Reducing costs to support people’s living standards by:
- Reducing energy, extending the Warm Home Discount and helping people to make their homes more energy efficient
- Capping the bills of low-income families with 3 or more children on a water meter and promoting social tariffs
- Reducing food costs for low-income families through introducing free school meals for all infant school pupils alongside Healthy Start Vouchers for young children, breakfast clubs in deprived areas, and free fruit and vegetables at school for primary school children
- Reducing transport costs for low-income families
- Increasing access to affordable credit for low income families through expanding credit unions
Raising educational attainment by:
- Increasing the number of poor children getting quality pre-school education
- Introducing an Early Years Pupil Premium to help ensure 3 and 4 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds get the best start in life
- Ensuring poor children do better at school by giving disadvantaged pupils an additional £14,000 throughout their school career – a £2.5 billion a year commitment through the Pupil Premium
- Supporting poor children to stay in education post-16 through training, apprenticeships, traineeships, and better careers advice
- Helping parents provide the best possible home environment by supporting parenting classes and providing free books to poor families
- Helping parents who experience mental health issues, investing in drug and alcohol dependency treatment and supporting young carers
- Increasing support for children with Special Educational Needs
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