Select Committee on Work and Pensions Second Report

Conclusions and recommendations

1.  The Committee recommends that a comprehensive UK-wide strategy for reducing child poverty is drawn up and published as part of the forthcoming Spending Review. The strategy should consolidate existing child poverty reduction goals and other PSA targets and establish a clear policy framework to be pursued between now and 2010. (Paragraph 19)

2.  The Committee urges the Government to state exactly which measures it will use to define the eradication of child poverty, and how it will use them. It also recommends that the next PSA target for base year 2004-05 should be derived from the 60% of median income after housing costs measure. Using the median income before housing costs figure would mask the true extent of child poverty. (Paragraph 66)

3.  The Committee believes that the decision to adopt only the before housing costs measure is mistaken. We believe that the after housing cost statistics remain of huge relevance and should continue to be published. (Paragraph 68)

4.  We recommend that the Department seriously considers revising its policy on budget standards with a view to adopting them as a tool for exploring living standards and helping to fix poverty thresholds for the future strategy on child poverty. (Paragraph 74)

5.  We agree that a housing needs indicator should be included within the overall measure of child poverty. (Paragraph 80)

6.  The Committee recommends that the national strategy on child poverty develops immediate policy initiatives to assist children in severe and persistent poverty and creates an explicit indicator against which progress can be measured. (Paragraph 89)

7.  The Committee recommends that the national strategy should earmark new resources to provide for adequate school clothing for all low-income families and that the Government take appropriate action to enable LEAs to provide school clothing grants. (Paragraph 98)

8.  The Committee recommends that the national strategy on child poverty should ensure nutritionally balanced school meals are available to all low income families in a stigma-free way. (Paragraph 102)

9.  The Committee recommends that the national strategy expands the role of the Social Fund to help tackle severe and persistent child poverty and considers paying child development grants at key stages during the lives of those children in severe and persistent poverty. (Paragraph 114)

10.  The Committee recommends that the Government ensures that tax credits administration and policies and procedures on overpayments support the objectives of tackling child poverty and making work pay. (Paragraph 121)

11.  The Committee recommends that the Government attaches a greater degree of priority to developing the role of the Social Fund than it does to the Child Trust Fund between now and 2010. (Paragraph 122)

12.  The Committee warmly welcomes the additional financial resources allocated in the 2003 PBR to families with children via the child element of Child Tax Credit which, we recognise, should ensure that the 2004-05 target will be met. (Paragraph 136)

13.  The Committee applauds the innovation and effort that the Department is putting into helping lone parents move into paid work. However we also reiterate the objections made in our Employment Strategy Report to the principle of time-limiting benefits and requiring lone parents to be in paid work as a condition of receiving benefit. (Paragraph 152)

14.  We reiterate the recommendation in our Employment For All Report that the Return to Work Credit is welcome but does not need piloting and should be extended nationally as soon as possible. We also recommend that, while undertaking worksearch activities, disabled parents receive free registered childcare in the same way as lone parents; and where a person has found a job through New Deal for Disabled People, we recommend that free childcare is paid for up to one week before they begin work. (Paragraph 158)

15.  The Committee recommends that the Chancellor's New Deal for Skills, announced in the Budget, should initially be targetted on those areas with a high proportion of minority ethnic groups. We also recommend that active consideration be given to extending Employment Zones to cover more areas with large minority ethnic communities. (Paragraph 165)

16.  We recommend that the national strategy on child poverty should aim for continuity of revenue funding for childcare. (Paragraph 169)

17.  The Committee recommends that the roll out of Children's Centres should be extended to reach beyond the 20% most disadvantaged areas of high deprivation outside the 20% most disadvantaged areas. (Paragraph 174)

18.  The recent NAO report recommended that more effort be put into recruiting older people into the childcare workforce. The Committee endorses this recommendation. (Paragraph 179)

19.  The Committee urges the Government to commission research into the factors contributing to stable parenting and life chances and recommends that the national strategy should consider new initiatives to strengthen family ties. (Paragraph 187)

20.  We have been concerned that the reports of threats to services such as crèches, drop-ins and even nurseries as a result of pressures on local authority budgets, and recommend that the Sure Start Unit develops a strategy to ensure the increased provision in one sector is not undermined by the loss of services in another. (Paragraph 195)

21.  The Committee recommends that the national strategy should study childminding and parental leave systems operating elsewhere in Europe and consider how to improve provision between now and 2010. (Paragraph 200)

22.  The national strategy on child poverty should re-assert the commitment to retain universal child benefit uprated in future to maintain and enhance its real value as one of the foundations of all future support for children. (Paragraph 204)

23.  The Committee recommends that the Government undertake further research within the next two years to examine fully the impact of recent and possible future increases in Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit on child poverty, severe and persistent child poverty and work incentives. (Paragraph 215)

24.  The national strategy for child poverty should consider including additional financial support for large families, either through a new large family premium in Child Tax Credit, or additional premia for all children. (Paragraph 218)

25.  The Committee recommends that an immediate rescue plan be mounted to ensure that the Child Support Agency cases are all migrated onto the new system by 30 June 2005, and enforcement actions increased massively by 31 December 2005, with an enforcement system which commands greater confidence amongst parents and the public. (Paragraph 222)

26.  To help reach the goal of halving child poverty by 2010, the Committee recommends that support for each of the poorest children - measured on the after housing costs basis - soon be increased by £10 per week. (Paragraph 235)

27.  The Committee recommends that special measures are needed to bring Northern Ireland into line with household income levels in other parts of the UK and that Northern Ireland should be included in future PSA targets on child poverty in order to promote consistency and to reduce any distortion in the UK figures. (Paragraph 241)

28.   We therefore recommend that the Government review the targetted initiatives that are currently in place and consider whether a universal approach might be more effective in the run-up to the 2010 target. (Paragraph 246)

29.  The Committee is persuaded that special measures are needed in Inner London to ensure that the 2010 target will be met. The Committee recommends that the Housing Benefit disregard on earned income be substantially increased in Inner London and the proportion of childcare costs covered by the childcare element of Working Tax Credit be increased to 90% in Inner London. We also recommend that Jobcentre Plus be given additional resources to help minority ethnic groups and lone parents in the capital move into work. (Paragraph 264)

30.  The Committee recommends that, as part of the policy of mainstreaming child poverty, the Government aim to create coherence and consistency between local funding streams from all government departments which are directed towards children and young people. (Paragraph 289)

31.  The Committee recommends that a key feature of the national strategy should include poverty proofing of all departmental policies across Whitehall and the devolved administrations. (Paragraph 290)

32.  The Committee recommends that during the course of the next 3 year spending round all departments should monitor the extent to which their central allocations are being used to target child poverty effectively at local level. (Paragraph 292)

33.  The Committee recommends that the Government devotes more analytical and organisational effort to coordinate the most relevant activities necessary for the child poverty goals to be achieved. (Paragraph 298)

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