Labour must introduce a new Child Poverty Act if they win power at the next election
OCTOBER 11, LIVERPOOL - Keir Starmer should introduce a Child Poverty Act for the next generation to show Labour are serious about helping the UK’s poorest families, a leading children’s charity has said today.
A new Act of Parliament delivered within their first 100 days if they win at the next general election would commit them to reducing inequality with a set of legally binding targets. This could drive down the shameful statistic that 4.2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty.
The previous Child Poverty Act was introduced by the last Labour government shortly before the 2010 general election but axed by the Conservatives. A new Act could help today's children who have been severely impacted by back to back crises of austerity, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.
Becca Lyon, head of UK child poverty at Save the Children, said: “A new Child Poverty Act would put Labour on the right path to tackling vast inequality in this country. It would break down the barriers facing children today and is best way to remain focused on the issue long-term. Other nations that have adopted the same approach have been able to reduce the number of kids growing up in poverty.
“Far too many children in the UK are growing up in cold homes with their families struggling to put enough food on the table. They are missing out on experiences enjoyed by their wealthier peers. Labour have committed to a child poverty strategy to improve children’s lives but they could go further by introducing legislation if they win at the next election.”
A Child Poverty Act would fit into Labour’s mission “breaking down the barriers to opportunity”.
Save the Children’s proposal for a new Child Poverty Act within the first 100 days of a potential Labour government includes five measures:
1. Set legally binding time bound targets to reduce the number of children, and start to deliver the fairer future their opportunity mission sets out.
2. Require annual reporting of key child poverty metrics, including those set out in the mission, at the Budget by the Chancellor.
3. Introduce child poverty impact assessments for all major policy and delivery decisions across government
4. A vote carrying member of Cabinet who leads the strategy to reduce child poverty.
5. Deliver a reduction of children in poverty by always raising children’s benefits in line with inflation and scrapping the two child limit to benefits.
Labour should adopt The Social Metrics Commission’s measure of poverty and use this more accurate calculation as the one by which they set their targets. This takes into consideration housing, liquid assets, the extra costs of childcare, disability, as well as rental and mortgage costs. They should also continue to record absolute poverty before and after housing costs and relative poverty before and after housing costs.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 was a parting piece of legislation introduced by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the very end of the New Labour government. Its aim was to eradicate child poverty by 2020 but it was never put into action. By 2016, the Conservative government had dropped the legislation and replaced it with the Welfare Reform and Work Act which scrapped targets and shifted focus onto social mobility.
Other countries that have had success in legally formalising their child poverty strategies are Ireland, with its National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2014-2020, and New Zealand with its Child Poverty Reduction Act 2018. In Ireland child poverty reduced by 4.6% during the time the framework existed, and in New Zealand the number of children living in poverty reduced from 22% to 15% over a period of four years.
Scotland has a Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, which was supported by Labour. Child poverty is projected to fall from 24% of all children living in poverty to 17% by the end of 2024.
Meanwhile child poverty in the UK has remained stubbornly high with over one quarter of children growing up in child poverty over the last decade. Child poverty in 2027/28 is forecast to be the highest since 1998/99 with 170,000 more children in poverty than in 2021/22, according to the Resolution Foundation.
Becca Lyon said: “There hasn’t been a serious focus on bringing down child poverty levels from a UK government for over a decade. The next Government must set out act at pace to bring the change we need. Now is the time to put a stop to the suffering of children growing up in homes where parents can’t afford the essentials, where there isn’t enough food in the fridge and days out and experiences are an unobtainable luxury. We all want an ambitious future for our children after years of Covid and the cost-of-living crisis and Labour has a chance to set out clearly how it intends to do that, and achieve the party’s own ambitions around inequality and opportunity, by committing to a new Child Poverty Act.”
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