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"Our research shows that relationships can be strengthened and breakdown in some cases prevented. Good early interventions have been shown to decrease costs incurred later by schools, social

5 Jan 2010 : Column 75

services, health services, youth justice and the police, but to truly reap the rewards they must be early. But it takes bold political will to spend now to save money later".

This research, like so much other, comes from the voluntary sector and underlines the need for voluntary agencies to be encouraged in their work with properly funded statutory agencies, both making their unique contributions as equal but different partners in the joint enterprise. As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions observed when introducing the Bill:

"We know that no law alone can end child poverty".-[Official Report, Commons, 20/7/09; col. 603.]

It has to be accompanied by the will and the action from all quarters.

The diocese that I have the privilege to serve covers not only Herefordshire but south Shropshire, about 20 parishes in Wales and a little bit of Worcestershire. Half of its small total population of 330,000 lives in communities of less than 500. Not surprisingly, we are therefore the most rural English diocese, so noble Lords will not be surprised if at this point I say that we must not forget rural poverty and rural households in greatest financial need. Rural poverty may largely be invisible as a statistic, which is part of the problem, but if you are the child, it is not invisible but extremely real.

To give an example from my diocese, one of our village schools has only 87 children, 24 per cent of whom have free school meals. In a village community, that is a massive figure. The head teacher there, like head teachers of so many schools, says that the number of children who are entitled to free school meals is considerably higher, but parents are reluctant to request them, partly because of the stigma that they still see attached to them-however much they are meant to be confidential, in such a small community, they are not-and partly because of rural pride. Therefore, the statistics do not always reveal the whole truth. South Shropshire has been the poorest rural district in our country. With a small population, this issue is desperately difficult to address. Households are scattered and communities are tiny. Thankfully, the problem can be helped by the strength of many of our communities themselves and by the part that the churches and the villages play within it.

Reference has been made already to Sure Start, and I want to refer to Peterchurch, a village in Herefordshire, where a hugely innovative project is being undertaken by the church and the church council, which, in partnership with the Church Urban Fund, the Herefordshire Council and the DCSF, have raised £500,000. Part of the church has been set aside for a children's centre which is run by Sure Start and serves the very scattered communities of the golden valley. It addresses the needs of all households, including especially those with the lowest incomes, by providing, among other things, integrated early learning and childcare for babies and children under the age of five, childcare which is suitable for working families, family support and outreach, child and family health services, and so on.

While it is fundamental that we commit ourselves at every level of organisation-governmental, statutory, voluntary including the churches, and so on-to reduce

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child poverty, it is also vital that we address, as the right reverend Prelate stressed, the associated issue of inequality. In part, measures of child poverty, as we have been reflecting, touch on that, but the recent work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett highlights widening inequality as exacerbating all the issues that those in poverty face. They say that among the wealthiest nations the four that have least inequality between richest and poorest also have the best quality of life for all. The General Synod of our church called for "minimum income standards", as have others, which would strengthen the focus of eradicating child poverty and close the inequality gap.

Finally, while equality has risen within this country and the others of the United Kingdom, it has also risen across countries. That to which we aspire within our own shores must be that to which we aspire for others within our global village. We have committed ourselves to world millennium development goals which include much to do with child poverty. As we strengthen our processes and resolve again to eradicate that poverty in Britain, let us similarly strengthen again our resolve to achieve those millennium goals for the benefit of those who are far poorer in other countries. I look forward to pursuing some of these issues further and, above all, to their being reflected in future legislation and action.

7.23 pm

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I am delighted to have the pleasure of congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford on his thoughtful maiden speech and welcoming him to your Lordships' House. As one of the resident humanists in your Lordships' House, it may seem ironic for me to be welcoming a Bishop. However, the right reverend Prelate's speech shows what an asset he will be to this House. As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, I am delighted that we seem to have another recruit to the superb confederation of those who speak on their behalf in this House. The right reverend Prelate also has a deep interest in education. The speech we have just heard reflects an understanding and knowledge of children, but also deep sympathy and warmth for their cause. I am so pleased that he mentioned moral imperatives and the importance of poverty of aspiration.

The right reverend Prelate has been Bishop of Hereford since 2004, having previously been Bishop of Warwick. He is married to a professional artist and they have three adult children. I understand that he lives in the second-oldest timber-framed house in England, which he calls a "semi". I asked yesterday whether he, like so many other Bishops I know, is keen on cricket. I was told that this was not the case but that he is interested in golf and fly fishing. I am not sure how he combines the two. Perhaps this is an example of his versatility. We are welcoming to the Bishops' Benches someone with a wealth of experience, understanding and humour. I know that he will make a great contribution to the work of this House.

The End Child Poverty campaign recognises progress in tackling child poverty. Some 500,000 children have been lifted out of poverty, but we are still falling short

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of the 2010 target to halve child poverty. Eradication by 2020, even when that means less than 10 per cent of children and young people living in poverty and not absolute eradication, is a challenging target. This Bill provides, therefore, a welcome impetus to focus again on this all-important issue. This Government have done much to try to combat disadvantage through financial and educational initiatives. I know that more is being done to encourage low income parents to take advantage of child trust funds. Family intervention projects are working well. Sure Start is a success. The number of people in drug treatment has doubled in 10 years. I must declare an interest as chair of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. Those are examples of tackling the causes of poverty.

As many have said, we are faced with inequalities in income. In the UK, the richest 20 per cent is seven times richer than the poorest 20 per cent. Millions of children in the US and Britain seem destined to inequality from the day that they are born. Poverty engenders disadvantage and disadvantage is likely to result in poor cognitive, social and physical development and, in some cases, behavioural problems-not necessarily, but likely. As UNICEF points out-I declare an interest as a board member of UNICEF-the Child Poverty Bill represents an opportunity to enhance human rights and, specifically, child rights in the UK. These are rights to health, education, protection and development as an individual. We cannot punish children for the shortcomings of their parents.

The proposed establishment of the Child Poverty Commission is welcome in relation to monitoring progress on these fronts. I know that the House will follow with interest the composition and terms of reference of that commission. Consultation with children is essential, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, stated. I would hope that consultation with parents, carers and those individuals and organisations who support children will also be carried out.

As many have said, it is also important that all young people are supported. Every child does matter. I know that there were amendments in Committee in another place to include young people under the age of 18 rather than 16 in addressing child poverty. International and European law support the age of 18 and under as the definition of the word "child". The age of 18 is also relevant to child protection and Every Child Matters reforms. We are bedevilled by different definitions of what constitutes a child. While I understand the complication of age limits in relation to child benefit, as others have said, it is an issue.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission, together with other bodies supporting children and families, strongly supports this Bill and welcomes the duty on the Secretary of State to report on the four targets of relative low income, low income and material deprivation, absolute low income and persistent poverty, although there is some criticism that the targets are too income focused. Specific groups are mentioned in the commission's briefing, on which others have and no doubt will comment, including missing or under-represented groups, non-resident parents, lone parents, the disabled and looked-after children. This Bill and subsequent action on the Bill has to be about all children.

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There has been an interesting discussion about targets and the causes of poverty, particularly in the very detailed speech of my noble friend Lady Hollis. One of the good things about the Bill is that it focuses not only on targets but on the means of delivering them. In particular, I welcome the emphasis on the collaboration between national and local government that my noble friend the Minister welcomed. Delivery at all levels, supported by a commission, is surely the way to achieve results.

The building blocks outlined in the strategy include not only support for parents but the involvement of health, education, childcare and social services and housing and social inclusion, all of which are essential in tackling child poverty. A closer relationship to the Every Child Matters outcomes, including enjoyment and leisure, may have been useful. The principles behind the building blocks are also important, with their emphasis on work being the best route out of poverty, on strong families, on early intervention and on the high-quality delivery of services. An existing example of excellent support to families, as I mentioned earlier, are the family intervention projects, and I hope that this model can be built on.

I shall dwell briefly on another group about which I have spoken before in many debates: kinship carers. The Minister will not be surprised at my raising them; he has several times met kinship carers, particularly grandparents, to listen sympathetically to their worries, and all concerned are grateful to him for this interest.

Poverty begins with parents and carers and may be intergenerational. This is the link that must be broken. Many grandparents who look after grandchildren permanently are impoverished. Some 300,000 children are living with family and friends: that is, with kinship carers. Three out of four such carers experience financial hardship. Four out of 10 live on £200 a week or less. Only one in six of local authority placements are with kinship carers; the rest are placed in non-relative foster care. Yet the outcomes for children in kinship care are much better than for those in other care situations. It makes financial and social sense to support kinship care. The number of care applications has increased by 47 per cent in recent months, and there is a shortage of foster carers for more than 8,000 families. Family and friends' care is part of the solution, but kinship care must be properly supported. I shall table amendments to that effect.

This is a good Bill and is much needed. I agree that a cross-party approach is important. No doubt the Bill's progress through your Lordships' House will improve it further, and I look forward to interesting times and to the Minister's response. I apologise for my husky and spluttering voice. It is not because of emotion; I have a sore throat.

7.32 pm

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: My Lords, I begin by drawing attention to my interests as set out in the Register, and stress, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, what a pleasure and a privilege it is to follow the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, in which he indicated so clearly that he was not a Lord temporal at all but a

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Lord spiritual. He gave us a very high goal to reach in addressing child poverty, and perhaps most importantly he identified the two critical issues that we should address: the widening gap between rich and poor, and the breakdown of family life. These are the twin prongs of the fork that pins children into a life of poverty and distress.

The right reverend Prelate also indicated his belief in the need to meet the millennium development goals. I have my own concerns about the efficacy of the implementation of this Bill and whether or not the goals that it sets will be reached. Surely the fact that the Government at this very late stage have decided to set a strategy for conquering child poverty gives rise to questions, when noble Lords on all sides of the House, and indeed the UN family, are committed to meeting the millennium development goals. The two keys here are access to health and access to education. Reaching those two goals by the target date of 2015 would be the biggest way of sweeping aside child poverty in the United Kingdom that we have known.

My concern about the Bill is that the lines are drawn so narrowly that it is a matter of figures and targets and of identifying things that can be measured and that may indicate what child poverty is in the United Kingdom. I wait to hear whether these targets have been chosen because they are quantifiable and easily measurable, can be put down in figures, and are likely to clarify why child poverty in the United Kingdom is so pervasive and widespread. Will the Minister confirm this? I am intrigued that this Government are setting the strategy for the next Government and not for themselves. If this is the case, my concerns widen somewhat.

This Bill is said to comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child but, because of the narrowness of its drafting, it overlooks the fact that UK government policies also directly affect child poverty outside Great Britain and Northern Ireland, not least through the economic migration of workers into the United Kingdom. Throughout eastern Europe, children are being abandoned in institutions as a direct result of one or both parents going abroad to work. They come here to the United Kingdom in great profusion, as well as to other selected members of the European Union and to Russia, and they leave their children behind with members of their extended family, frequently the grandparents, who can rarely if ever meet either the extra economic burden or the big physical burden of bringing up their grandchildren. The grandparents simply do not have the strength, and they most certainly do not have the money.

Furthermore, many single mothers are inadvertently produced by the father travelling abroad to work, and money that is not forthcoming from the father working abroad can result in family breakdown and children being placed in institutional care. A key example of this is Russia withholding remittances from Moldova for quite a few years. Since 30 to 40 per cent of Moldova's income is from remittances, you can only imagine the effect that this has had on children there. Moldova is not alone. The inescapable fact-alas, it is evidence-based-is that migratory workers suffer much higher rates of mental illness and of drug and alcohol addiction through loneliness. They also suffer hugely

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from family breakdown, because inevitably they find new families or new family links which they build up in their new countries.

Family breakdown in the countries of origin is now a common occurrence, so where are the stable and loving relationships which the children need and to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford so rightly referred? Many thousands of young children in residential care in the World Health Organisation European region are without a parent. In eastern Europe, only 14 per cent of children are in residential care as a result of child maltreatment; one in three have been abandoned by their parents, generally for reasons that I have already identified; one in two are there because they require a place to live, generally through family poverty that is unalleviated by government measures, such as child benefit, that are standard throughout the EU member states; and one in two children in social care are disabled. Only six per cent are true orphans with no living parent, although the institutions in which they are placed are often wrongly called orphanages. I refer noble Lords to Kevin Browne's study of 2009, The Risk of Harm to Young Children in Institutional Care.

This Bill, which is so narrowly drawn, does not take these wider implications into account. I would like the Bill at least to pay tribute to joined-up government. Where is the trade provision to help these families to find jobs at home? Where is the provision to support them? What advice do the Government give to the Governments in question in eastern Europe? After all, we are the second biggest net contributor to the European Union, and the European Commission, with its wider Europe policy, is heavily engaged with all these nations. I visit British embassies there-they are magnificent-and I am deeply concerned about the withdrawal of funding from those embassies so that they have little capability to do those things that they can see so clearly could be done and in which we have so much competence ourselves.

I suggest that the Lisbon treaty and the work of the European Commission have failed to recognise the consequences of EU economic policies on the preservation of families and of the right of children not to be separated from their families against their will, to which Article 9 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child refers. To prevent child poverty throughout the European Union and here, there needs to be a concerted effort by all member states to look at the effects of economic policies on family life. The Bill does not address this in any way. While the European Union has no competence for children's issues, and as we know has no legal base, none the less, EU member state responsibilities to implement fully the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was comprehensively identified by the Council of Ministers in 1998 when it declared that failure to implement the UNCRC would rank as failure to implement the treaty, with all the consequences and gravity that that implies. Her Majesty's Government were inevitably part of that declaration and we are committed to it.

This Government and the government of every other member state bear a heavy responsibility, and hence the necessity for us to scrutinise UK child-oriented

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policies very severely at all times to ensure that the maximum potential help for children throughout the European Union and the wider Europe is built in. Falling back on Article 12 of the UNCRC, as the Bill before the House today does, is an inadequate and unsatisfactory position for Her Majesty's Government to adopt.

The Forensic and Family Psychology Research Group at the University of Nottingham, led by Professor Kevin Browne, to whom I have already referred, has recently received significant ongoing financial support from the EU Daphne programme on violence against women and children to explore the full extent of child abandonment throughout Europe and to identify best practices for its prevention. The team has already identified the extent of young children in residential care across Europe and best practices connected with the deinstitutionalisation of these children by building services to support children returned to their families and the community. But progress in this endeavour has been slow and laborious because of a lack of commitment and funding.

The same amount of financial support needs to be made available to Bulgaria, which joined at the same time, as was made available to Romania, and to the new accession states of Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia and upcoming Bosnia, in addition to the other central and eastern European member states that joined in 2004. The Minister and I know that this has not happened. Personally, I believe that very little funding is required to swing the balance back towards support for families and children in the wider eastern European Union states and that the British Government, the Foreign Office and experts who can give advice from here would have a large part to play for a small pocket of funding, particularly if it were made available to the British embassies.

The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us in his new year's message of our responsibilities to those outside our gates. Child poverty, perhaps we think of today, as here and now, and indeed it is. But I make no apology in the light of the Archbishop's message and of the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford today to make the fundamental point that we as a critical and powerful member of the European Union could do so much more, yet the Government have pulled back funding for the Foreign Office and our embassies for this work. I do not believe that is right and I urge the Minister to think again and to incorporate into this Bill measures to cover the points I have mentioned.

7.45 pm

Baroness Blood: My Lords, I want to begin by welcoming this Bill and the fact that it includes all of the United Kingdom in its measures to monitor and address child poverty. Child poverty has been endemic in Northern Ireland for a very long time. Currently we have around 96,000 children living in poverty. We have higher rates of persistent unemployment and economic inactivity. Those children who are living in poverty are much more likely to have done so for longer periods of time, so the effects are more likely to be ingrained and

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severe. I see this reflected in my own community and in those nearby me where some children are living in families that are experiencing third or even fourth generation unemployment. This affects children's health, education, leisure and, in the long term, their aspirations and outcomes. I welcome any legislation or action that puts a responsibility on government to address this.

In terms of the Bill itself, I think that the clause which makes measuring child poverty the responsibility not simply of Westminster and the UK Government but of the devolved Administrations, is crucial. It is right that the Northern Ireland Executive should measure child poverty annually and report its findings to the Assembly. This is right both in terms of the democratic process and because it may act as an impetus to government to ensure that action is taken to begin to address child poverty rather than simply subscribing to an overall aim of reducing poverty without any clear actions to do so.

It is only in the last number of years that Northern Ireland has measured child poverty in terms broadly comparable with those elsewhere in the United Kingdom It is important that we provide an accurate picture across the UK of the overall levels of poverty and how all our children are experiencing poverty, otherwise it is too easy for some nations to fall far behind. I understand that there are still some difficulties in terms of measuring persistent poverty in Northern Ireland and I would urge the Government to ensure that the necessary steps are in place to enable this very significant measure of poverty to be reflected across the UK.

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