Millions of children will stay trapped in poverty despite government strategy say UK experts


Following publication of the government's strategy to end child poverty, experts have warned that the measures are inadequate to lift the millions of children who currently struggle in low-income households across the UK.

The Child Poverty Strategy, presented to Parliament by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith in February and released yesterday, sets out measures which aim to reduce the number of British children living below the poverty line, through "tackl[ing] poverty at its source – be it family breakdown, education failure, addiction, debt or worklessness".

"We must work together to transform the lives of the poorest in our society," Ducan Smith writes in the introduction to the document, which includes a commitment to end child poverty by 2020.

It has received a significant amount of criticism however, with many charities contending that the government has failed to produce an effective strategy to eradicate the growing problem across the UK.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has branded it a "missed opportunity", with Chairman Alan Milburn contending that "the gap between the objective of making child poverty history and the reality is becoming ever wider".

According to the BBC, Milburn has condemned the government's approach as falling "far short of what is needed to reduce, let alone end child poverty in our country," and has labelled the failure of ministers to agree on a way to measure poverty as a "farce".

Chief Executive of The Children's Society, Matthew Reed, agrees that measures outlined so far will be insufficient.

"The government's child poverty strategy does not commit to the steps necessary to tackle child poverty in the run-up to 2020 – the year by which it committed to end this crisis. This will leave millions of children trapped in poverty. As the Commission rightly points out, the government needs to adopt an effective strategy which shows how it will meet its target," he says in a statement.

"There are a number of practical steps that the government can take to end child poverty in the UK. These include making free school meals available to all children in poverty and to make sure that all children living in poverty automatically get the Warm Home Discount. Both are pivotal to helping end to the millions of families that every day face harsh choices between giving their putting food on the table and heating their home.

"The government also needs to do more to tackle problem debt, including working with creditors and the free debt advice sector to develop a 'breathing space' scheme. This would give struggling families an extended period of protection from default charges, mounting interest, collections and enforcement action."

He concludes: "The government must take real steps now to save children from being trapped in poverty and give them the chance of a better future that they deserve".

Catch up on Channel 4's exposé on child poverty, 'Breadline Kids', broadcast 9 June here.