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From Words to Action on Child Poverty

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New polling released by the End Child Poverty (ECP) campaign shows that 82 per cent of people think child poverty should be a priority for any government to tackle. Not rocket science, is it - that it should be top of the to-do list for any government to ensure that all children grow up with the best chance in life? So then why do the latest forecasts show that child poverty is expected to rise significantly over the next decade, rather than fall? This, in the seventh richest country in the world, let's not forget.

It is striking that, in contrast to the public appetite for action on child poverty - with almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the public believing that the government should be doing more in this area - so many austerity measures announced and introduced in the last few years have disproportionately affected families with children. From cuts to child and childcare tax credits to freezes in child benefit - not to mention the cuts to other in and out of work support which is hammering the lowest income families - the evidence is clear that families, and children in particular, are doing particularly badly in the recession.

Even in an area like child maintenance, which new research from Gingerbread shows can play a significant role in lifting the poorest children out of poverty, government reforms are likely to make it harder, not easier, for single parents to receive regular, reliable maintenance payments from their child's other parent. While the theory of separated parents negotiating private 'family-based' arrangements (the government's preferred model) sounds great, the practice shows that this is hard to achieve for many; meaning that paying to access the statutory child maintenance service (the only alternative in future) will ultimately just cost children more.

So what steps should the government be taking to tackle child poverty? Again, it's not rocket science. It's practical measures that make a difference to families on the ground. ECP polling shows that the public gets that: there is strong support for action on helping families get jobs; tackling low wages; increasing the supply of affordable housing; and providing access to quality affordable childcare. Ensuring that more children in separated families have a chance of receiving financial support from the parent they don't live with, when currently less than half do, would also go a long way to lifting more children out of poverty.

And with public support for action clearly shown by this latest polling, the bottom line is that measures in this area are vote-winners. Time, then, for the government to translate words into action, and ensure that we don't burden another generation of children with the life-limiting effects that growing up in poverty can bring.