Memorandum submitted by the End Child
Poverty Campaign (CP 11)
Child poverty is not inevitable. It is the result
of failures in public policy and of a failure to invest in our
future social and economic well-being. It is the result of our
collective failure to hear and see the poor and to act to ensure
that no child is left behind.
Twelve national children and family organisations
launched End Child Poverty in April 2001 as a joint initiative.
The founding members recognised that the scale and complexity
of child poverty required unified action and a unique coalition
of interests to join together in common purpose. We work:
To inform the public about the causes
and effects of child poverty.
To forge a commitment between and
across the public, private and voluntary sectors to end child
poverty by 2020.
To promote the case for ending child
poverty by 2020 with this and every future Government.
Today we have over 75 organisations in membership.
We welcome the Prime Minister's pledge to eradicate child poverty
in a generation and the Government's commitment to halve child
poverty by 2010 and reduce it by a quarter by 2004-05. If and
when these targets are met the result will be a major step forward
for poor children across the UK.
This pledge is a significant and demanding undertaking;
in many people's view the most challenging in over 50 years since
the creation of the National Health Service. It will require Government
to ensure that the right policies are in place to tackle not just
the symptoms of poverty but also its root causes. Above all, it
will require Government to deliver visible results each year over
There are four key issues which we wish the
Committee to consider:
The scale and nature of child poverty.
The complexity of poverty.
The measurement of poverty.
The need for a child poverty strategy.
The UK has one of the highest proportions of
children living in low-income households among the member countries
of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
This means that today one child in every three lives in povertymore
than double the level two decades ago.
The latest figures demonstrate that 3.8 million children in the
UK are living in poverty.
There is overwhelming research evidence that
childhood poverty has a dramatic and long term impact on individuals,
communities and the society we live in. We know that children
who grow up in poor families are more likely to leave home early,
to do less well in school and are less likely to work when they
reach adulthood. Adolescents who grew up poor believe that health
is a matter of luck, play truant and expect to leave school at
the age of 16.
As recently as October 2002, the UN Committee
on the Rights of the Child delivered a powerful verdict on the
UK's second progress report on the implementation of the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child. The Committee said it remained concerned
that the UK was not implementing the Convention to the "maximum
extent of available resources" as stipulated in Article 4
of the Convention, and it recommended that the UK ensure transparent
analysis of budgets to show the proportion spent on children.
The Committee also noted the lack of an effective and coordinated
poverty eradication strategy and urged the Government to undertake
all necessary measures to accelerate the elimination of child
Income poverty is central to any analysis of
child poverty. However, child poverty is multi-faceted and requires
concerted action across a number of areas by a range of sectors
and key players. Poverty is certainly about not having enough
money, but it is also about children growing up in safe neighbourhoods
in affordable housing with play and leisure facilities.
It means education services, which recognise
the difficulties poor children face, and work with them to achieve
their individual potential. It means that health services need
to be accessible and an end to the obscenity of children who are
born poor dying earlier in adult life. It means supporting families
when they are experiencing problems. achievement
In our response to the DWP consultation paper
Measuring Child Poverty we highlighted the challenge to
develop a technically robust package of measurement that will
help to evaluate progress and the impact of policy and which at
the same time can be readily communicated to the wider public.
All key stakeholders have an interest in ensuring
that whatever package of measurement is agreed upon, it must be
able to be communicated to the general public in a meaningful
The key issues in relation to the measurement
of child poverty are:
Lack of political credibility
No official child poverty measure has ever been
adopted by government. While the current govemment has acknowledged
the problem of child poverty and committed itself to act, previous
governments have challenged claims about the extent of poverty
or have questioned whether poverty really exists. Govemments have
not been bound by the existence of an official measure.
Lack of public credibility
There has been scepticism about claims that,
for example, one in three children live in poverty. This figure
does not fit with public or media perceptions about the extent
of poverty in the UK. Some components of deprivation measuresfor
example, owning a home video recorderhave also been publicly
criticised and ridiculed.
No consensus exists about which measure is best.
Most experts favour an income measure of some sort but acknowledge
the limitations of existing measures of income poverty (see list
on page 15 of the consultation document). A plethora of income
and other measures now exist which means that the messages about
child poverty are not consistent.
Each of the credibility gaps needs to be addressed.
This requires the adoption of an official measure that has resonance
with public opinion and is technically robust.
In our view a comprehensive measure will require
significant extra resources to ensure that the data is collected,
analysed and published in a timely fashion. This would enable
key stakeholders to use the information to assess progress and
the impact of policy. Given the scale of public funds required
to meet the pledge to end child poverty we believe this investment
is justified. We also suggest that consideration should be given
to establishing an independent body that would be responsible
for "auditing" the data and publication of both a headline
indicator (we would suggest on a six monthly basis) and the full
data sets annually.
Whilst we welcome many of the recent policy
initiatives in relation to poor children and families there is
a real question as to what the government's strategy on child
poverty is. In our view there is a need to set out the direction
that the govemment intends to take. The purpose of a child poverty
strategy would be to provide a route map describing how government
intends to deliver on the Prime Minster's pledge to end child
poverty by 2020. The purpose of the document would be:
1. To ensure that all relevant govemment
departments are working towards the pledge to end child poverty
with a systematic and strategic approach and with the explicit
backing of the Cabinet, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister.
2. To bring together in one document, preventative
and alleviative policies, across all government departments, which
aim to improve outcomes for children living in poverty.
3. To outline the government's medium to
long-term policies and key milestones in relation to the eradication
of child poverty;
4. To identify the roles to be played by
other agencies (for example, local government, social services)
in ending child poverty;
Such a Strategy Would Address:
What outcomes government would want
to secure for children in poverty by 2020
At what stage in the next 15 years
key changes would need to be introduced, if the target is to be
A forecast of the resources required
between 2005-20 to tackle child poverty;
Accountability for the strategy,
clarification of the interface with other strategies and how it
would fit into government structures.
A combination of quantitative research
evidence and qualitative evidence to ensure the strategy is technically
robust but also incorporates feedback from children and families
living in poverty;
Commitment to key priorities and
aims for 2010 as a major milestone;
Consideration of the impact of policies
on a number of different levels. For example, it would not be
enough to look at tax credits without considering issues of accessibility
Focus on how to reach those children
who are hard to reach, such as disabled children and homeless
children, including those children who are at risk;
A mechanism to ensure that policies
devised by all government departments, whilst not necessarily
working towards the strategy, do not work against the strategy
or the target to end child poverty"child poverty proofing";
Consideration of the constitutional
arrangements of the four nations of the UK and arrangements to
ensure the strategy can be implemented in the devolved nations;
A risk-assessment detailing potential
obstacles to fulfilling the pledge and how different obstacles
might be tackled.
Consideration needs to be given to accountability
for the strategy, which would address the following:
The need for clear responsibility
for the strategy in each government department;
The feasibility of establishing an
independent body with responsibility for monitoring the strategy's
In conclusion, we welcome the Select Committee
Enquiry, we recognise the complexity of child poverty and that
whatever measure of child poverty is adopted it must resonate
with the wider public. Finally we strongly believe that a clear
and explicit strategy needs to be put in place and publicised.
The current Treasury review of child poverty and the publication
of the agreed measure of child poverty expected later this year
is an opportunity to do so.
10 September 2003
144 UNICEF Innocenti Report Card Issue No. 1.2000,
A league table of child poverty in rich nations http://www.unicef-icdc.org/publications/pdf/repcard1e.pdf Back
Households Below Average Income 1994-5-1999/2000.2001, DWP, Corporate
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Households Below Average Income 1994-5-2001/02.2003, DWP, Corporate
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