Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Barnado's (CP 09)


  Barnardo's welcomes the opportunity to respond to this Inquiry.

  Barnardo's is the leading UK children's charity, working with 50,000 children, young people and families through some 300 community-based services. This response draws on our work with some of the most disadvantaged families in the UK, especially the children and young people in those families who struggle daily with the reality and consequences of poverty.

  The overwhelming and compelling evidence from our child care services that poverty was continuing to blight the lives of so many children led to Barnardo's initiating a national campaign against childhood poverty and social exclusion four years ago. The work undertaken and the reports produced as part of this campaign highlight the key causes of poverty for the families we work with. This submission draws on these reports and especially on the real life examples on which the reports are based.

  A number of recommendations are made throughout this report which are summarised in Appendix D.


  Barnardo's has been involved in the Government's Consultation Paper on measuring child poverty.

  2.1  Issues

  The key issues in relation to the measurement of child poverty are:

    —  Income

    In our view income must be at the heart of a measurement of child poverty. The 60% of median income as the (aspirational) measure of child poverty should be retained. Whilst this is not a perfect measure, it is an established measure against which the Government's progress on child poverty can continue to be monitored. This measure also enables comparisons within the UK and across Europe.

    —  Opportunity for All

    As poverty is multi-faceted and complex, it is important that a range of other measures, as well as income, are used: therefore "Opportunity for all" needs to continue. However, the headline indicators used in "Opportunity for all" and in the similar documents for Scotland and Wales do not adequately capture the different aspects of child poverty and social exclusion and need reviewing.

  2.2  Indicators

  Our suggestions for new indicators are as follows:

    —  while it is accepted that the increase in worklessness in the UK has been associated with the increase in child poverty, child poverty can be caused by factors other than worklessness (such as low pay). As Bradshaw1 points out "there are very substantial proportions of poor children whose parents are not workless". Worklessness is a cause of child poverty not an outcome. Indicators are needed which capture these factors;

    —  some of the indicators are concerned only with Sure Start areas which fails to capture pockets of poverty in more deprived areas—there are more poor children living outside than in Sure Start areas. Indicators which adequately capture all deprived areas are required;

    —  specific indicators are needed to measure progress on groups of children who are more likely to be persistently and chronically poor, such as disabled children, children in traveller families, children in large families and black and minority ethnic children;

    —  the "decency" threshold in relation to housing does not measure children in privately rented accommodation, children who are homeless and in temporary accommodation and children who are in overcrowded accommodation. New indicators measuring these are needed;

    —  the education statistics focus on DfES priorities and key stage attainments. But other issues, such as school expenditure per pupil linked to ward level data are equally important and need to be measured; and

    —  many PSA targets, such as the number of children involved in fatal accidents on the roads and in the home, birth low-weight, child mortality and child morbidity, are key to child outcomes and require associated indicators.


  3.1  Extent

  The extent of child poverty in Britain is well known: 3.8 million or one in every three children is growing up in poverty. The extent and main causes of poverty are:

    —  almost one in five children (18%) lives in a family where no one works at all2;

    —  54% of children in lone parent families live in poverty3;

    —  27% of white children live in poverty, compared with 48% of children from ethnic minorities4;

    —  65% of children in families with a disabled child are in the bottom 40% of income5; and

    —  1 in 5 economically active young people aged 16-17 is unemployed6.

  3.2  Causes

  Barnardo's experience of working with families, children and young people across the UK confirms Government statistics. Our key campaign reports which are based on our work, highlight the following as the causes of poverty:

    3.2.1  Inadequate Incomes

  Despite the increases in benefits for children and other initiatives, the current level of social security is not sufficient to enable families to meet all their basic needs. There has been no proper assessment by the UK government of the minimum level of income needed to maintain health and to meet essential needs since before the welfare system was introduced in 1948.

  Some claimants can be living below the basic income support level because their benefit is deducted at source. Benefit deductions can be made for social fund loans, overpayment of benefit, debt or fines. The maximum amount that can be deducted each week for arrears and child maintenance is £8.10 (CPAG April 2001). In May 2001 1.22 million income support claimants had one or more deductions from benefits, the largest group being lone parents (755,000) and disabled people (582,000)7.

  As the case study in Appendix A shows many families are not gaining significantly from the recent increases in benefits: the extra few pounds per week may be enough to lift them just over the poverty line but do not make any significant differences in living standards.

    3.2.2  The Social Fund

  Closely related to the inadequacy of basic benefit levels is the inadequacy of the arrangements dealing with any untoward event in family life or purchasing the major items necessary for equipping a home. Our experience shows that one of the major drawbacks of the benefit system is the social fund as it is currently set up.

  The burden of Social Fund repayments on low-income families can be crippling and the number of claimants has risen by 35% in four years. In February 2000 it was reported that 709,000 claimants had an average of £9.41 deducted from their benefits each week to repay Social Fund loans. Over half of these were lone parents and a third disabled people8. The Government's target to end child poverty means that the Social Fund and its objectives are in urgent need of reform.

  Barnardo's works with families whose income is plunged far below the poverty line when they are paying back social fund loans. Our report entitled "Invisible Children"9 gives case examples from our service users.

Case Example

  Angela Smith, for instance, is 30 years old and has five children. Some months ago she took out a loan for a bed and bedding for the children. She is now paying this loan off at £33 per week, bringing the families weekly income support down to £193. Angela says that she does not regret taking out the loan because the items were essential, but now that she has to pay it back "life is a real struggle".

Case Example

  Sarah Vinson has recently moved to a Wiltshire market town after the break-up of her marriage. She has a tiny house with no garden and the children have to share a bedroom. But because the social fund provided loans and not grants, Sarah's scared to consider asking for a transfer of accommodation that would provide a garden for the children to play in and their own room each. She says she simply cannot risk taking out social fund loans that would be necessary to furnish and set up a new house in even a very basic way.

  Barnardo's is campaigning for a system of grants to be re-introduced in the place of loans. But the Government has again refused this approach. The Select Committee recommended a radical overall of the Social Fund and see it as part of the problem of child poverty, not part of the solution. Recent increases to the budget of the discretionary social fund over the next three years and changes to local decision-making are welcome. We remain unconvinced, however, that these measures alone will be enough to give the poorest families a cash safety net when needed.

  These case studies show that the Social Fund as it presently operates continues to have disastrous and frightening implications for the poorest families. Reform of the Social Fund is central to a strategy for ending child poverty and we would urge that the forthcoming review of the Social Fund is far-reaching and radical.

    3.2.3  Debt

  In Barnardo's experience, the inadequacies of the Social Fund is a key factor in driving people to take out credit, frequently from loan sharks. Families with children tend to accumulate the highest arrears, often for essential expenditure such as paying household bills.

  At the same time as personal debt is increasing, many UK citizens do not have a bank account or access to sources of affordable credit and other financial services. This results in "financial exclusion" which is a key factor in perpetuating poverty.

  A recent report from the Citizens Advice Bureau shows that the amount owed by more than 900 Citizens Advice Bureau clients surveyed over a one month period averaged nearly 14 times their monthly income. On average CAB clients surveyed owed nearly £10,700 with amounts ranging from £132 to £111,000—but their average monthly income was only £800—less than half that of the UK population at large. Consumer credit debt was by far the biggest problem area, accounting for 70% for all the debts in the survey10. Up to three million borrowers in Britain use door-to-door facilities.

  Interest rates of over 180% APR are routinely being charged by doorstep lenders. A £500 loan to be paid back over 18 months would cost £11.28 a week with Provident Financial which would be paid back a total of £884.80—a 76% interest rate. The same loan with Direct line would be repaid in just 11 months with a typical credit charge of around £38.0011.

  Examples from Barnardo's service users reinforce these findings.

Case Example

  Gaynor, 26, has three children, Matthew, seven, Courtney, four, and Dylan who is nearly three. Another baby is expected any day. Gaynor's husband, Jason is registered as disabled. Gaynor and Jason rely on income support, child benefit and disability benefit.

  The couple have what Gaynor describes as "major debt problems" and calculates that they owe between £17,000 and £18,000. Their telephone has been cut off and two of their numerous creditors have taken them to court.

  Gaynor also borrows from people who loan money "door-to-door". Before Christmas she accepted a doorstep offer to "renew" her loan and received £200 cash in hand in exchange for an increase in her repayments of £1 a week. However, she was later shocked to discover that with interest, the £200 would cost her a total of £500 to repay.

  Gaynor is also paying £40 a week direct from her benefits to pay back a social fund loan leaving the family £200 a week for food, clothes and bills. Before going to the CAB for help recently, she was paying £140 of this each week to the door-to-door loan people.

  Barnardo's believes that tackling debt and financial exclusion must be an integral part of the Government's pledge to end child poverty. There is an urgent need for the UK to impose an interest rate ceiling, as is the case in many other industrialised countries, to protect the poorest families from exploitation by credit companies. Government also needs to invest, via local authorities, in the development of credit unions, through debt redemption and other schemes and to ensure better education about basic financial services for everyone.

    3.4.4  Extra Costs

  Measurements of household income do not take into account extra costs. Two key reports produced by Barnardo's demonstrate clearly that extra costs push families who are already struggling into deeper poverty. One of these focuses on disabled children and the other on financial pressures during the summer holidays.

    —  Disabled Children

  It costs on average three times as much to raise a child with severe impairment than a non-disabled child. The families interviewed for Barnardo's report "Still Missing Out? Ending poverty and social exclusion: Messages to Government from families with disabled children"12 all incurred extra costs as a result of their child's impairment. The main areas of additional expenditure were basic necessities such as transport, heating and fuel and clothing. Parents were often forced to go into debt to meet their disabled child's basic needs, while other non-disabled siblings went without.

Case Study

  Rachel and Paul live in London and have three children, two of whom are disabled. Courtney has severe disabilities and needs constant care and support. Her brother Jamie is autistic. Their main cost for Courtney is clothing because of her incontinence. Daily washing and buying new clothes regularly are expensive. Clothing is also costly because Jamie has a tendency to make holes in his clothes and rip them. He also causes damage to furniture and equipment.

  The establishment of a minimum income standard which includes targeted support to meet the extra, essential costs of caring for a disabled child is required if Government is to lift disabled children and their families out of poverty.

    —  Summer Holidays

  Barnardo's latest child poverty report "Wish You Were Here"13 highlights the difficulties facing parents on low incomes during one of the most stressful times of the year.

  The loss of free school meals during the holiday period and the added burden of saving up for new school uniform for September means that parents often struggle to make ends meet. Free school meals in term-time for a family with two primary school age children are currently worth £13.50 per week, at a cost of £1.35 a meal. Approximately 1.6. million children aged between five and 16 in Great Britain are entitled to free school meals.

  These additional financial pressures mean that there is little chance of the trips and activities that most families take for granted, such as a trip to the swimming poor or cinema. The idea of a holiday away from home is a distant dream for many families.

  To ensure that families do not suffer such hardship and social exclusion in the summer holidays requires Government to introduce additional food benefits during the holidays for families on income support and job seeker's allowance. Also, there should be a statutory duty on local education authorities to ensure that families dependent on income support receive school uniform grants to cover the full cost of essential items.


  4.1  The Impact of Child Poverty

  Barnardo's report "Counting the Cost of Child Poverty"14 illustrates the grim facts of early deprivation on young lives, but it also shows encouraging examples of how children's futures can be turned around. In almost every instance, positive investment in children's lives is cheaper than dealing with the consequences of not investing (Appendix B).

  There is a clear need to break the cycle of disadvantage by helping parents to deal with the problems of poor family relationships, mental and physical ill health and misuse of alcohol and drugs. The benefits of early and timely intervention, for example through community-based services such as health visiting and family support are evident.

  4.2  Children's Experiences of Poverty

  The usual focus of poverty research is on adult outcomes. It is equally important, however, to focus on the impact of poverty on children's experiences of growing up. Lack of parental income means that poor children are often excluded from the activities that their peers take for granted resulting in social exclusion.

  Barnardo's report "Wish you were here" illustrates how lack of parental income, combined with extra costs in the summer holidays, inadequate transport, the lack of locally accessible and affordable activities for children results in heightened exclusion.

Case Example

  I couldn't afford it. I've never had a holiday with Michael. I've been camping down the river and that's as near as we came to a holiday . . . It's a shame when all his friends have been away and he goes back (to school) and says "I haven't done much". (Lone parent with a 7-year-old child.)

  4.3  Specific Groups of Children

  Certain groups of children face an acute risk of poverty: for example, children in one parent families who make up nearly half of all poor children; children in black and minority ethnic families; children in asylum seeking families; children in large families; children in traveller families and disabled children.

  For the purposes of this Inquiry we wish to focus on disabled children. Barnardo's runs 52 services for disabled children and their families and over 40 others include disabled children. Barnardo's report "Still missing out" draws on our extensive experience of working with disabled children and their families. The report shows clearly that a disproportionate number of families with disabled children are living in poverty for a number of reasons. These reasons are supported by research findings.

Inadequacy of Income

  Of all families in the UK who care for disabled children 55% either are or have been living in poverty15.

  Most of the families in the report were struggling financially and having to budget carefully to make ends meet. Many did not feel that the recent increase in benefits had made a great difference and a few families stressed that they were only surviving due to Invalid Care Allowance and DLA. Income Support was described "as a pittance". It was almost impossible for families to save for emergencies.

Extra Costs

  It costs on average three times as much to raise a child with a severe impairment as a non-disabled child16.

  All the families interviewed had higher costs resulting from their child's disability—most of these were on necessities such as heating, clothing, transport, and special toys and equipment.


  Parents of disabled children are much less likely to be in full-time work than parents of non-disabled children.

  This finding is also supported by our report. Most of the parents wanted to work—as one mother said "I don't want to be seen as a charity case. I prefer to earn my own living and claim nothing".

  Work can be a route out of poverty but families with disabled children face a number of barriers. They are often unable to work because they cannot secure childcare that meets their child's needs. Specialist day care for disabled children is difficult to find. Community-based play and leisure facilities are rarely available for the parents of disabled children. Most services for disabled children focus on providing care for short breaks rather than after-school care to support parents' employment.

  Work which provides parents with the flexibility to care for their children is still difficult to find. Many parents have numerous hospital appointments which makes commitment to employment difficult. When parents are able to find suitable work, it often doesn't pay once specialist childcare has been paid for. The childcare tax credit is set at a flat rate and does not take the higher costs of specialist childcare into account.

  The parents who were in work were often in low-paid work and moving into work meant that they had lost their entitlement to passported benefits: they felt that this was a disincentive to move into work.


  Only between 40% and 60% of families claim Disability Living Allowance. Socially disadvantaged families are least likely to apply18.

  Many parents, especially the minority ethnic parents, were confused about their entitlements to benefits and found procedures unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming. As a result many families are not getting what they are entitled to. Families want information in an easily accessible format "I wish that the Government would provide us all with one idiot-proof booklet, the easy guide to what you are entitled to" said one mother.

  The messages from the families in this report support the research evidence that central government initiatives to tackle childhood poverty and social exclusion, as well as the agencies responsible for the delivery of services, are not meeting the needs of disabled children and their families. If the targets on child poverty are to be met, there must be a specific focus on disabled children as well as other "hard to reach" children.


  5.1  Information

  As a UK organisation with regional offices in Yorkshire, the North-West, the Midlands, the South-West, London and the South-East, Barnardo's through its direct service provision has a sound understanding of the extent and causes of regional variations in child poverty.

  We would like to take this opportunity of drawing the Inquiry's attention to three regional reports which highlights these issues.

  5.2  Child Poverty in the South-West of England

  Barnardo's report "Invisible Children: Child and family poverty in Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire" uses ward data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to show the extent of child poverty in the region. There are an estimated 529,500 children under 16. Of these 132,000 (25%) are living in poverty.

  As a children's charity, we have worked in this region for many years and one of our most powerful impressions is of the invisibility of children and families living in poverty. There are a number of reasons for this:

    —  The dominant view of the region is that it is relatively affluent and not subject to the problems experienced by highly urbanised areas in other parts of the UK. In recent years general prosperity has increased as financial services and high technology industries have "moved west". This assumption of affluence has tended to mask the extent of child and family poverty in the region.

  The market and coastal towns are apparently affluent commuter villages in the South West region which often include small areas or estates in which there are high concentrations of children living in poverty. These "hidden estates" have a number of important characteristics in terms of child poverty and exclusion:

    —  adults commute out of them for work. Children (in families who can afford to) commute out for their activities. This leaves children who are in families that have very little money and no means of transport particularly vulnerable;

    —  because of the smaller concentrations of children in poverty over large areas there are often very limited children's activities in these areas;

    —  accessibility is a key issue. If there are facilities for children it can often be very difficult for parents without personal transport to get their children to them;

    —  the cost of living for poor families in these areas can be higher than for their counterparts in the large cities. For instance, if the family live in a commuter village their only choice may be a local shop selling a small range of items at a higher price; and

    —  due to the way in which statistics about child poverty are generated, its extent within the region is often obscured, particularly in the more rural areas. The ward is the smallest administrative unit for which figures are regularly produced. Yet because of the size of wards, pockets of real poverty are hidden.

  5.3  Yorkshire

  In contrast to the South-West, Yorkshire is seen as an area which contains high levels of deprivation. Barnardo's runs services for families and children in most of the metropolitan districts and unitary authorities in Yorkshire. Three years ago the Yorkshire regional office published a report which showed that all but one of the metropolitan districts in the region featured in the top quarter of the most deprived authorities in the UK.

  Barnardo's services in Yorkshire work on a daily basis with children and young people whose lives have been adversely affected by poverty. Jerome's story shows how his father's redundancy from the mines impacted on his life and how difficult it is to break the cycle of poverty when it starts. (Appendix C)

  5.4  Rural Poverty in Wales

  Earlier this year Barnardo's Cymru and NCH Cymru published a joint report on rural poverty in Wales.19.

  A growing body of UK research shows that rural communities include many families living on low incomes who face particular difficulties resulting from social isolation and lack of appropriate services. The Index of Multiple Deprivation (2000) whilst showing the highest concentrations of poverty and deprivation in urban, ex-mining and industrial areas of Wales, nevertheless supported growing concern about poverty in rural areas, especially in terms of housing and access to services.

  Regeneration programmes in Wales have tended to target urban, rather than rural areas. Scattered populations or families living in "pockets" of deprivation, alongside affluence, are rarely able to benefit from these programmes.

  The study is based on the views and experiences of families. They had all experienced problems with finding and keeping jobs, child-care, transport and housing. What they say they want is:

    —  secure, reasonably local employment with wages which actually make a difference to the quality of life;

    —  decent, well-managed public housing in neighbourhoods free from fear and free from crime and disorder;

    —  affordable quality housing;

    —  reliable, affordable family-friendly public transport;

    —  help to finance and acquire skills such as driving lessons (lessons tend to be more expensive in rural areas);

    —  affordable, quality childcare for these who wish to work;

    —  recognition and support from those who wish to stay at home; and

    —  opportunities for themselves and their children which allow then to stay living where they are.


  6.1  Barnardo's welcomes the government's commitment to ending child poverty. Recent figures show that they are making some progress towards reducing child poverty, but Barnardo's is concerned that that the current strategy will not reach all those in greatest need. Many families who struggle with poverty live outside the areas targeted for government help. In addition, the primary focus on work as the main route out of poverty does not help those families for whom work is not an option—either because the jobs are not there or because they have a disability, health problems, caring duties, or difficulties with child care or transport.

  6.2  Further Initiatives

  The following further initiatives are needed:

    6.2.1  The Need for a Coherent Long-Term Strategy

  The Government needs to produce a document setting out a "route map" describing how it intends to deliver on the pledge to end child poverty. Such a document would demonstrate how all Government departments are to work together in a systematic and strategic way to improve outcomes for children. It would outline the Government's medium- to long-term policies and key milestones in relation to the eradication of child poverty and would identify the roles to be played by other agencies (for example, local government, social services, the voluntary sector) in ending child poverty. It would include an economic analysis of the investment required to deliver a strategy which would meet Government targets.

  A route map would also show how mainstream funds and targeted initiatives all fit together. The current programme relies too heavily on projects and initiatives which are short term and could displace mainstream funding. Furthermore, the monies in targeted programmes are small in comparison to mainstream funds and it is arguable that the most effective way to make a difference is to ensure the adequacy of mainstream funds.

    6.2.2  Ensuring Adequacy—the Need for a Minimum Income Standard (MIS)

  Barnardo's is of the firm view that fundamental to eradicating child poverty in the UK is the setting of a minimum income standard/threshold below which no household should fall, whether in or out of work. We have many case examples (see Appendix D) which show that current levels of benefits are simply inadequate for the task of bringing up children. Living on a low income places intolerable stress on families who are dealing with a multitude of problems. Providing an established minimum income standard to maintain the health and well-being of children as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child would help families cope better. This is consistent with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Social Security which stated that: "the Government should establish a specific budget to fund research into the levels of income needed to avoid poverty . . . The Government having set a target to eradicate poverty must now set itself a standard to measure what levels of income individuals and families need to live on".

  The task of setting a MIS should not be left to Government alone. An independent commission should be established to recommend a MIS and to undertake the task of keeping it under review. There is already a credible body of research, for example budget standards methodology pioneered by the Family Budget Unit, on which any panel or commission could draw.

  The Children's Commissioner, as announced in the Green Paper on Children at Risk, must have a pivotal role to play as a member of a commission, by advising on measures and issues specific to children and ensuring that the views of children and young people are taken into consideration in setting a MIS.

    6.2.3  Reaching all Children

  The Government's strategy will reach the least-poor children. A specific focus is needed on the most vulnerable groups of children—especially disabled children. The Government needs to target these groups of children specifically and to ensure that policies aimed at ending child poverty also reach them.

    Barnardo's is of the view that the following issues need to be addressed by Government so that the 360,000 disabled children in the UK can benefit from its anti-poverty strategies.

    —  All mainstream programmes and targeted initiatives to have a specific focus on disabled children and young people:

    —  for example, the needs of disabled children must take priority in the National Childcare Strategy and the higher costs of specialised childcare included in funding streams;

    —  targets are needed to increase significantly the number of childcare places and specialist trained childminders available for disabled children;

    —  a government-funded national awareness campaign on disability benefits aimed at increasing take-up through the provision of information which is clear and accessible, in all formats and in different languages;

    —  the establishment of a minimum income standard, which includes targeted support to help with the extra, essential costs of raising a disabled child; and

    —  there needs to be an economic analysis of the investment required to ensure that government programmes aimed at lifting children out of poverty also reach disabled children.

    6.2.4  A Benefits System that is Flexible and Responsive

  The benefits system needs to be more flexible to improve financial protection for children, in particular:

    —  an improvement in the take-up of benefits, especially for disabled children. Figures from the DWP show that in 2000-01 over two million poor households failed to claim means-tested benefits worth as much as £4.5 billion a year;

    —  the benefits system must safeguard families at times of pressure. Families need to be compensated for the loss of free school meals in the school holidays. There should be a statutory duty on local authorities to provide grants for school uniforms for families in receipt of income support to cover the essential items. These two policy measures, which would be relatively easy to implement and fairly low cost would however make a significant difference to the poorest families; and

    —  The system needs to be more responsive in helping parents move into work.

    6.2.5  Tackling Financial Exclusion and Helping Families Avoid Debt

    —  as argued earlier in this submission, a radical reform of the social fund is central to ending child poverty; and

    —  the problem of debt in poor households needs to be addressed and the social fund is presently being reviewed.

    6.2.6  Tackling Regional Inequalities

  Barnardo's supports the recommendations from the House of Commons Housing, Planning, Local government and the Regions Committee20:

    —  recognising the differences between regions and prioritising the least prosperous regions, rather than the current approach of developing policies for the benefit of all regions;

    —  acknowledging that the measures needed to tackle unemployment need to be different in areas where there are lots of jobs and in places where job opportunities are few and far between;

    —  ensuring that the fundamentals for growth—transport, research and development investment and universities—are put in place now in the less prosperous regions;

    —  giving adequate powers and resources to elected regional assemblies where they are introduced; and

    —  reviewing the allocation of public resources between the nations and the regions of the UK.

  As well as these recommendations, Barnardo's would also wish to see:

    —  greater focus on pockets of poverty in areas of affluence with appropriate targeting of resources;

    —  more "joined-up" approach in the implementation of the Government's anti-poverty strategies. This could be achieved through "regional proofing" of policies—for example does the National Childcare Strategy, an important plank in Government policy, work for parents whatever their geographical circumstances and what adjustments in terms of resources and delivery need to be made?;

    —  regeneration initiatives becoming more focused on achieving positive outcomes for children and young people: many are too adult focused; and

    —  longer-term funding for regeneration and other Government initiatives.

    6.2.7  The Role of Local Authorities

  Local authorities, working with central government, could play a greater role in tackling childhood poverty and social exclusion. For example by ensuring that:

    —  local provision meets the needs of and includes the poorest children;

    —  by working more pro-actively with local providers, such as transport, leisure centres and commercial centres to ensure that concessions for activities are available for families on low incomes; and

    —  by undertaking local take up campaigns to encourage families to take-up their entitlements to state benefits.


  7.1  As a UK-based charity we would recommend that comparisons within the UK, such as contained in "Opportunity for All" and in the UK National Inclusion Plans continue.

  However, Barnardo's would like to see the child poverty agenda as a more effective partnership with all the four countries which takes account of both demographic differences and economic growth. This needs to inform both policy and resource allocation.

  For example, the Scottish Parliament's Finance Committee has published a cross-cutting review of expenditure in tackling child poverty. The review raised a number of concerns, especially the fact that spending on core services which help tackle poverty and disadvantage—such as local government and housing—are growing below average. The review concluded that "The Executive has delivered significant new resources to tackle child poverty and disadvantage since 1999 and there is evidence of modest progress for 1997 to 2000. Further progress, however, will require further action by the UK Government on benefits and better targeting and monitoring of poverty and disadvantage by the Executive".21.

  Barnardo's is of the view that there is a need to systematically review how the UK as a whole is meeting the child poverty targets and what adjustments are required to take account of the different circumstances prevailing in the four countries. This needs to be part of a long-term strategy that is set out in a "route map" referred to earlier.

Neera Sharma

Principal Policy Officer

10 September 2003

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