Child poverty target to be missed says Commission

The legally binding goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is likely to be missed by a considerable margin, according to the government-appointed Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission in its first 'state of the nation' annual report.

Key points

  • Despite 'considerable efforts' and a raft of initiatives designed to make the UK a fairer place, progress has not been enough to meet the target of ending child poverty by 2020 or to improve social mobility.
  • Since 2010 the number of children in workless households has fallen by 15 per cent: but recently there has been a 275,000 rise in the number of children in absolute poverty. Independent projections suggest the statutory target on child poverty will be missed by 2 million.
  • Transient poverty, growing insecurity and stalling mobility are far more widespread than politicians, employers and educators have so far recognised. More low- and middle-income families are being squeezed between falling earnings and rising house prices, university fees and youth unemployment. Many parents fear that when their children grow up they will have lower living standards than they themselves have enjoyed.
  • The nature of poverty has changed. Today child poverty is overwhelmingly a problem facing working families, not 'the workless or the work-shy'. Two-thirds of children in poverty are now in households where an adult works. In three-quarters of those households someone already works full time. The problem is that those working parents simply do not earn enough to escape poverty.
  • A comprehensive approach is needed to tackling in-work poverty. The UK has one of the highest rates of low pay in the developed world. The five million workers, mainly women, who earn less than the 'living wage' desperately need a new deal. The taxpayer alone can no longer afford to shoulder the burden of bridging the gap between earnings and the cost of living, and employers need to take a greater share of the burden.

Commission chair Alan Milburn said: 'Compared to many other developed nations we have high levels of child poverty and low levels of social mobility. Over decades we have become a wealthier society but we have struggled to become a fairer one. Just as the UK government has focused on reducing the country’s financial deficit it now needs to redouble its efforts to reduce our country’s fairness deficit. If Britain is to avoid being a country where all too often birth determines fate we have to do far more to create more of a level playing field of opportunity'.

Source
State of the Nation 2013: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission
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Publication date: 
Oct 17 2013