Can we still eradicate child poverty by 2020?

6th Jan 2010

To tackle child poverty, change is needed in four key areas, says Julia Unwin.

This year marks the EU year of poverty and social exclusion. There is also a real appetite among political parties to tackle UK poverty. So what better way to mark 2010 than ensuring the UK renews its commitment to eradicating child poverty?

We know that the government will fail to reach its target of halving child poverty in the UK by 2010. But what can be done to ensure that it still achieves its target of eradicating UK child poverty by 2020? Simply enshrining the pledge in law will not be enough.

These are challenging economic times, but our research suggests that allowing high levels of child poverty to continue costs the UK at least £25 billion per year.

Whatever happens in the election, if any political party is going to end child poverty it will need to seriously commit to addressing this stalled issue. Our research suggests restarting it will require a step change on four fronts:

  • Improving childcare. Quality, affordability and availability are all vital to help parents work and promote children's development.
  • Revisiting benefits, welfare to work and tax credits. The current system leaves many families in poverty when parents can’t work, and creates problems for those who move in and out of jobs.
  • Increasing parents' skills. Higher skills and qualifications could help parents get jobs which do more to lift them out of poverty. But this needs to be combined with…
  • Working with employers to increase the availability of good quality, part time and flexible jobs.

The benefits of reducing poverty, for families, communities and the UK, make it imperative that all the parties commit to getting the drive to end child poverty back on track.

(An edited version of this blog appears in this week's Big Issue)