Written evidence from the End Child Poverty coalition (CPM0031)
End Child Poverty is a coalition of 70 charities, Unions, faith groups, professional bodies and community organisations committed to holding the Government of the day to account for the impact of policies on the level of child poverty in the UK.
We believe the evidence shows that child poverty is policy responsive, particularly when policies impact household income. When there is investment in children’s benefits and children’s services; when there is adequate support to help families meet high costs of housing and childcare; and when there is a commitment to tackle low pay and insecure work then there will be a corresponding fall in child poverty.
Since we were set up in 2002 we have called on the Government of the day to have a comprehensive, cross-departmental plan to end child poverty with targets attached to policy interventions so that Ministers are held to account on their contribution to reducing child poverty and as an incentive to act collaboratively with other Departments. We believe ultimate responsibility for delivering significant reduction on child poverty should be held jointly by the Prime Minister and Chancellor and that they should be accountable for the overall levels of child poverty and the success or failure in Government policies in reducing it.
We also believe that ending child poverty should always be a Government priority and that requires a comprehensive and ambitious child poverty strategy. Why would a Government not want to demonstrate that the current generation of children is able to fully participate, thrive and enjoy the childhood we as a nation agree every child should have access to, putting them in the strongest position to have a successful future? The stark reality is that poverty continues to make that harder for families to realise, with consequences for the physical and mental health of children; for their achievements in school; and saddling children with a sense of shame and isolation. But with ambitious policies that have child poverty reduction at their heart, it is possible to boost household income and address the consequences of child poverty so that child poverty falls and wellbeing rises.
End Child Poverty local child poverty data
The coalition uses the Households Below Average Income data published by the Department for Work and Pensions each year, and their new reporting on child poverty, to set out child poverty levels (after housing costs) for every Constituency and Local Authority in the UK. By giving a local breakdown of child poverty we are able to identify those areas of the country most affected by child poverty and note that the greatest increases in child poverty each year occur in the those areas of greatest overall deprivation. By disaggregating data to the local level could help policy makers develop more targeted policies and help monitor the impact of particular policy interventions on particular communities.
Our submission to your Inquiry
The Child Poverty Action Group is one of the leading members of the coalition and their evidence-led submission to your Committee will reflect the strongly held views of the coalition, particularly, that in order to tackle and ultimately end child poverty we have to use income-based child poverty measures.
What has been the effect of removing from law the targets in place between 2010 and 2016?
Targets are an effective tool for holding departments to account for the effectiveness of their policies but they also impact policy formation. If targets are a legislative requirement, as was the case with the introduction of the 2010 Act, then Ministers would be required to judge the possible impact of a new policy on levels of child poverty. For example, the extensive cuts to social security would have been accompanied with a projection of the impact of those cuts on child poverty. Currently the sector is arguing strongly that the Government should make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent. The projections show that by 2023/24 there will be 4.7 million children living in poverty (after housing costs) as opposed to the already unacceptable anticipated rise to 4.4 million. If the Government was required to report on the impact of that policy against a child poverty target, that might make Ministers less supportive of the decision to cut the uplift.
Merits of a cross-government child poverty strategy
The merit in a cross-departmental child poverty strategy would give recognition to the need to not only address the causes of child poverty (eg fall in household income and high costs of childcare and rents) but also help Government departments prioritise support for policies that would effectively address the impact of poverty on children (eg worse health and educational outcomes) and help to prevent poverty in the future.
By addressing childcare, housing, education and parenting support, a child poverty strategy can ensure children have enriching childhood experiences and good life chances. Enshrining these initiatives in a strategy with cross-party support, statutory targets and meaningful leadership will ensure its long-term success.
In addition, a child poverty strategy should recognise those children most at risk of poverty. The data clearly shows that cuts to social security have been most felt by children in lone parent families; larger families and young families; disadvantaged regions of the UK; families where someone has a disability; Traveller and Roma children; children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds; children in care; homeless children; and refugee children.
The organisations that make up the End Child Poverty coalition see the impact of poverty on the families and children they work with every day. Be that in the classroom, in a healthcare setting, at the local foodbank or uniform exchange, or local holiday provision. All the children served by our member organisations have the right to a childhood full of positive experiences; for their friendships and school life not to be blighted by the shame poverty brings; for them to have the opportunity to pursue things they love. This is so far from the reality for too many children growing up the UK and there are sobering projections of ever-increasing levels of child poverty in the coming years. The scale of the problem is large but not insurmountable. Setting out how a Government intends to use all relevant departments at its disposal to transform the lives and future prospects of millions of children should be something any Government should embrace.