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More important is the example set by parents regarding the importance of work for their children. If a child lives in a household in which neither parent works, they have no role models leading them to work. Indeed, family members can put strong pressure on their offspring not to engage in such a disruptive activity. This, we argue, is part of the reason why social mobility has been found by researchers to be decreasing rather than increasing.
Paragraph (c) of the amendment is slightly different. According to Breakdown Britain, there are about 1.5 million children growing up in substance-abusing households, more than 1 million with parents abusing alcohol and 350,000 in households where there is drug-taking. According to the Gambling Commission, about 250,000 adults were defined as "problem gamblers", although I could not find figures on how many children they were responsible for.
There are two issues here. First, many parents with an addiction of this kind are likely to be unsatisfactory parents-in other words, their addiction is likely to reduce the well-being of their children. Secondly, such
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Paragraph (d) of the amendment covers another area where I suspect that there is little difference between ourselves and the Government. To put this in context, this is the area where the UK has the greatest relative disadvantage as an economy. The Leitch review found that 35 per cent of the working-age population do not have the equivalent of a good school-leaving qualification. That is more than double the proportion in countries like Canada, the US and Germany. About 4.6 million have no qualifications at all, according to Leitch, while 5 million working-age people lack functional literacy and 7 million lack functional numeracy. I do not think that the figures have changed materially since 2006.
There is a strong correlation between low skills and unemployment, especially when combined with other disadvantages. Lowly educated parents are more likely to be unemployed and living on benefits. At the same time, poor educational performance by parents is a strong predictor for that of their children. Our high number of NEETs, now running at about 950,000 children and young adults, is therefore both a poor outcome for children and a foreboding situation for their children in turn. This final paragraph aims to ensure that we measure and control education and skills at home. I beg to move.
Baroness Walmsley: I am moved to comment on the amendment. I quite accept that we should have a non-financial target-the welfare or well-being of the child. The problem is that, if you try to devise a list of any other targets, you are on very shaky ground. We have to keep in mind what we will do to achieve the targets. The list could well be incomplete for some families. The welfare of the child may be much better achieved by reducing domestic violence in the household. I see that that is not on the noble Lord's list. It could be better achieved by teaching one or other of the parents how to cook a good meal.
but when we are thinking about what we are going to do to achieve such a target, whatever figure we put on it, it amounts to social engineering, whatever the evidence is about what happens to children among couples of various kinds with various legal statuses. We must be very careful with targets of that nature. The only one that is fairly straightforward is that in paragraph (d),
I accept the evidence that you are more likely to have poverty in workless households, and neither do you have a role model for a young person growing up,
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The provision that worries me most is paragraph (c). I ask myself what the noble Lord would do to achieve such a target. Does he have in mind reducing benefits just in case they happen to be spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling? What about the children in that household if we are to do something of that nature? If the noble Lord has in mind improving the funding for treatment for drug addicts and people addicted to alcohol and gambling, I would have a great deal more sympathy with that part of his amendment, but it worries me greatly that that may not be what he has in mind.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Although most of us sympathise with the concerns that the noble Lord has expressed, I-and, I suspect, others-resist his wish to add the new clause to the Bill. The Bill is already hugely challenging. It is about something that, to a limited degree, government has some capacity to deliver, which is transfers of income to address income poverty as measured by the four targets.
The noble Lord has produced a list of additional items that, as the noble Baroness rightly said, are extremely hard, first, to measure and, secondly, to deliver. When this was discussed, at the other end of the building, there was a competition among Members of the Committee to add what they called Christmas decorations, or Christmas baubles, to the Christmas tree. Among others was not just domestic violence but housing overcrowding. Why is that not mentioned, because that, too, is a key driver of children's underperformance at school? Financial incompetence leading to debt is one of the key differences between two people with identical incomes. One is in material deprivation; the other is not. Why? Because one has gone to the pawnbroker, instead of the credit union, for capital goods. What about mental health and mental illness? Why is that not mentioned? All the evidence suggests that that is a more profound driver than all this little lot put together.
The problem here is that, although no one doubts that the items listed by the noble Lord are part of a holistic background to child welfare, the Bill is intended to deal with a portion of that, which is the contribution to the poverty of child welfare of income poverty. Government strategy is already dealing with issues such as worklessness. The whole strategy of the past 10 years has sought to do that and we collect the evidence for it. The Government already invest in education to bring the next generation of parents up to level 2 and beyond.
Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way, but I point out to her that the Bill is very much not saying, "We will do all this through income transfers"; it is actually saying, "We will have strategies to eradicate
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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I disagree with the noble Lord. I think the Bill is about a strategy to reduce child poverty, and the measurement is by the four target indicators in terms of absolute, persistent, and material deprivation and relative poverty. Those are the indicators that will form the targets by which performance will be measured. As I say, I do not think there is any difference between any of us about the desirability of meeting some of the objectives that the noble Lord has included in this amendment. Indeed, the criticism already laid out by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley-I add to it-is how minimalist his amendment is if he is trying to look at the well-being of the whole child. My argument is different; namely, that this Bill should not carry such additional items because you cannot measure some of them, and even if you could, government should not interfere with them, and, as regards others, government could not take any action on them even if they could measure them. If government cannot do it, this becomes a wish-list, Christmas cracker sort of amendment which I hope very much the noble Lord will not pursue.
For example, we can measure family relations; the statistics exist. The ONS will give you all the statistics you want about family size. However, the noble Lord cannot utilise a phrase he is very keen on, the difference between causes and symptoms, to ascertain whether people who marry enjoy the stable relationships which persist in cohabitation, and whether people who cohabit would, if they married, have short-lived relationships and experience the trauma of divorce. He cannot untangle that. I cannot untangle that. The statistics cannot untangle that. Therefore, there is not a lot of point in Government seeking to produce targets against which they are supposedly going to encourage parents to go into marriage in order to produce extra stability for the children.
We do not disagree that each of these indicators, and twice as many more as the noble Lord has failed to mention, matter to the well-being of the child, but they are not part of the push of the Bill. They should not overburden it with things that are well intended, aspirational, cannot necessarily be measured and almost certainly cannot be delivered.
Lord Northbourne: As so often happens, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has put her finger on the main aspect of this problem. However, I cannot begin to agree with the conclusions that she draws. I believe that the Bill is wholly unbalanced. It is meant to address child poverty but addresses household income. That is a perfectly respectable thing to do and if it was called the Household Income Bill I would be perfectly happy with it, but it is not. I started to write a speech about this but I have in a sense been shot down. I was going to say, and I believe it is true, that one of the commonest fallacies in the world is to believe that because two things coincide statistically one must be
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Baroness Thomas of Winchester: We understand exactly why the Official Opposition have tabled the amendment. It was a theme running through the proceedings in another place that we should measure child poverty not just in terms of money, but with a much wider perspective. A child's well-being is arguably the most important thing of all, even though it is very difficult to measure. We shall be discussing later amendments that address this very matter. It is shameful that this country is ranked 21st out of 25 EU countries, and was actually ranked last in the UNICEF well-being index in 2007, on child well-being.
After all, the phrase "poor but happy" is shorthand used by adults when remembering their childhood-particularly when they are on "Desert Island Discs". I have a lot of sympathy with the whole notion of non-financial targets, although we must be hard-headed and recognise, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, said, that income transfers must not be relegated to below non-financial targets in the Bill.
It is not entirely clear, as my noble friend Lady Walmsley, said, why these targets have been chosen in the amendment, and any data on them would surely be difficult to collect. The first problem is with proposed new paragraph (a). What constitutes a long-term relationship? How would the figure be collected? If someone is asked, "Are you in a long-term relationship?", the answer might be, "I hope so", but for some people that might be only 10 months, while for others it would be 10 years. After all, many long-term relationships last longer than many marriages. We should not forget that more than half of poor children are in two-parent, not one-parent, families.
Then there is proposed new paragraph (c), which, as my noble friend Lady Walmsley said, is very difficult. It talks about households where one or more parent is addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling. What about addiction to cigarettes, which must make a terrible hole in a family's budget, or to compulsive shopping? This is quite likely to be the straw that breaks the camel's back and land a family, already struggling with household bills, in debt. As my noble friend said, there is no mention of domestic violence, but we know that that is very bad for children. We can all think of things to put in this kind of list. Either we should have
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Presumably the purpose of this proposed new clause is to enable strategies to be developed to address each of these targets. We know, for example, of the Official Opposition's plans for a married couple's tax allowance, which we do not happen to agree with. Anyway, how would the noble Lord, Lord Freud, try to persuade couples to get married? Surely he is not suggesting that couples would decide to do that simply because of the tax allowance. What about the rest? If it was discovered that there was even more addiction than previously thought, would a future Government make sure that there were sufficient effective treatment centres around the country to cope with demand? Or would they have another go at trying to make treatment compulsory by sanctioning JSA? When this Government tried to make drug treatment compulsory for those receiving JSA, there was an outcry on the grounds that compulsion does not work, and the Government did not even try to make treatment for alcoholics compulsory.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his amendment. We are against the clock here, because we have to conclude by 7.45 pm, so I shall be as brief as I can. In fact, I am helped in that by the powerful contributions we have heard from my noble friend Lady Hollis, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Thomas and Lady Walmsley. They covered much of the ground that the Government would wish to. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, retains his view that this is a wholly unbalanced Bill. I hope that during our proceedings we will convince him otherwise.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Freud, regarding this assertion that the Government have concentrated on tackling poverty through financial means, of course we see the central importance of income, but we have always had a full strategy across the drivers of child poverty. The Child Poverty Review, 2004 and Ending Child Poverty: Everyone's Business in 2008 have set up the full range of policy instruments required to tackle child poverty, parental employment, childcare, housing, deprivation, skills, education and the progress that the Government have made on those issues. I want to be clear that the Bill is about tackling income poverty, material deprivation and socio-economic disadvantage, and our aim is that children should not live in poverty in the UK or suffer the effects of wider socio-economic disadvantage.
Ensuring a focus on income and material deprivation is central to that aim, but so is taking action beyond financial poverty. There is overwhelming evidence of the impact that income poverty has on children's lives in terms of both their experiences now and their chances in the future. Income poverty blights children's lives. It impacts on their education, their health, their social lives and relationships with their parents-the noble Lord touches upon some of these issues in his amendment; some of them he does not-and it impacts
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It is important that any progressive Government tackle the broad range of issues and policy areas that are related to poverty. Any effective strategy to meet the income targets will need to look at tackling the causes of poverty. During the oral evidence session, Donald Hirsch gave the example of somebody who is currently in school and who might in 10 years' time be a parent living in poverty if they do not get good enough educational qualifications. We need measures to ensure that that person, who has a disadvantaged upbringing themselves, achieves better at school in order to fulfil the income targets.
Our strategy needs to be multifaceted if we are to break intergenerational cycles of poverty and so truly end child poverty. This multifaceted approach is supported by the provisions in the Bill. The UK strategy will need to meet both the purposes set out in Clause 8(2) and show how the targets will be met. Clause 8(2)(b) requires the strategy to meet the purpose of ensuring as far as possible that children in the UK do not experience socioeconomic disadvantage.
Clause 8(5) requires the strategy to consider what measures, if any, ought to be taken across a range of key policy areas. These building blocks have been determined through the analysis of evidence that shows that they have the potential to make the biggest impact in tackling the causes and consequences of growing up in socio-economic disadvantage. In preparation for the first child poverty strategy, we are carrying out a thorough review of the evidence base to help us understand causal pathways and identify how different sets of policies can contribute to the 2020 target. In doing so, we are considering relevant data and statistics, including information around workless households and parental skill levels, as the amendment suggests.
The amendments proposed by the noble Lord are not necessary or helpful. The Bill requires strategies to set out the specific actions that need to be taken across this full range of areas to meet the targets and ensure that children do not experience socio-economic disadvantage. It is for the annual reports to monitor progress on these actions. The appropriate monitoring tools to assess the impact that they will have on progress will need to be established alongside the strategy development.
I do not wish to imply that the issues raised by the noble Lord are not important. I have already mentioned the importance of educational attainment; in addition, we are clear that looking at families where persistent unemployment or low skills are an issue will need to be part of an effective strategy that ensures that families are in work that pays.
However, we need to be careful not to confuse causation with correlation-a point which the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, made very effectively. As we said at Second Reading, evidence suggests that although
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Amendment 49 proposes that, to inform their child poverty strategy, the Government collect data on households with parents who are married, in a civil partnership or in a long-term relationship, and households in which one or more parent is addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling. I understand that the Office for National Statistics collects information on marital status; my noble friend Lady Hollis confirmed that. However, the causal link between this information and child poverty statistics is not clear cut.
I imagine that information on levels of drug, alcohol and gambling addiction would be rather harder to obtain. It is not clear, for example, at what point a habit becomes an addiction, or indeed the extent to which this impacts on household income or on children's well-being. I therefore question whether the information listed here is necessarily the most useful data on which to draw when preparing a child poverty strategy, and indeed whether it is appropriate to specify in legislation that such data are collected as opposed to other data on the drivers of poverty.
Finally, the role of the commission is to advise on the development of the strategy, and the Government must have regard to its advice. It is important that the accountability for setting targets and monitoring progress remains with Ministers and Parliament rather than with an unelected body. The commission will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge of the area and will be able to advise the Government on areas on which it believes an effective child poverty strategy should focus. Trying to second-guess its work should not be our aim for the Bill.
Lord Freud: I am aware that I have literally two minutes in which to respond. I thank the Minister for his response and all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have responded, although they were not necessarily desperately supportive.
What I am driving at in this amendment is the difference between a child's well-being and income poverty. We will come back to this. I clearly failed to understand the criticisms of my amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, asked what we do when we find out that particular people are cohabiting. We have an estimated material couple penalty in the tax credits system of about £1,200 a year. Actually, that is
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As for addiction, if the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, were to take the Bill purely as an income transfer Bill, what is the point of transferring income to people who inject-in other words, drug addicts?
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