What is needed to end child poverty in 2020?

Donald Hirsch

10 November 2008

How realistic is the government's pledge to end child poverty by 2020? The strategy is hugely ambitious and progress has stalled.

This Round-up draws on the findings of seven reports about how to take forward different aspects of a child poverty strategy; examines the impact of current policy; and suggests what is needed to ensure the target is met.

The seven related reports are:

Summary

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Key Points

  • Over the last few years a significant reduction in child poverty has been achieved, backed by significant resources. However, further progress depends on a big shift that raises the level of resources invested and widens the scope of anti-poverty measures.
  • The strategy requires over two million more children to be taken out of poverty, four times the progress since 1997. No single policy can achieve this. Only if worklessness is reduced and benefits raised and working parents' earnings improved does the strategy stand a chance of success.
  • Improvement of in-work incomes is particularly needed – there has been little progress on reducing in-work poverty and existing policy tools seem inadequate.
  • The child poverty strategy will need to help parents into jobs but also consider factors affecting their earnings opportunities, including:
    • the adequacy of childcare
    • job flexibility for parents
    • the level of parental skills; and
    • how these are used by employers to create quality employment.
  • Ending child poverty will depend not just on provision but on the behaviour of individuals, employers and public bodies, including:
    • decisions taken by families about working patterns, including whether both members of a couple work, as well as the number of working hours;
    • whether employers offer parents good quality jobs, with hours that meet their wants and constraints; and
    • whether government agencies provide support that genuinely responds to individuals' needs.
  • Families, employers and government need to work together to combat child poverty:
    • This partnership needs to deliver improved routes into work, so that parents can work in a way that complements their family lives.
    • It needs to repair the damaging mistrust between families and the state, and create a benefits and tax credits system that reliably helps families to escape poverty.
    • Finally, basic benefits need to provide an adequate foundation for improvement in families' lives, enabling them to avoid hardship and debt.

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