THE BLOG

Missing an Opportunity to Tackle Child Poverty

03/03/2014 10:25 GMT | Updated 30/04/2014 10:59 BST

The government's new child poverty strategy, announced this week, falls far short of what is needed to end child poverty.

Some of the measures the government have included - such as free school meals for all infant school children and free childcare for disadvantaged two year olds - are existing policies, which we have already welcomed. But the strategy has no new ideas on how to make ending child poverty a reality.

In fact, with no new policies to set things on a different course, it is expected that 800,000 more children will be living in poverty by 2020 -- the year by which the government has committed to end child poverty .

Worryingly, some of the measures are even likely make child poverty worse. No strategy designed to address child poverty should include the bedroom tax or the benefit cap as measures introduced to address this problem. Both cut critical support and will only serve to push more children into poverty.

The government needs to take decisive action to tackle the child poverty crisis facing the UK. We need a strategy that will make real progress towards ending child poverty by 2020.

We need a strategy that will meet the needs of children going hungry. Nearly three quarters of teachers The Children's Society surveyed reported seeing students coming into school with no lunch and no means to pay for one. Nearly half of those surveyed found that children are often or very often hungry during the school day.

The government has made a big step forwards by providing a free school meal to all children in infant schools, but 500,000 children living in poverty over the age of seven will still miss out - most are from low income working families who don't qualify, irrespective of how little they earn. The government needs to make sure that all children in poverty get a free school meal. For many, this is their only chance of getting a balanced meal. And it is key to helping families struggling to make ends meet.

We need a strategy that will meet the needs of children living in cold homes. Our research shows that 3.6 million children thought that their home was too cold last winter, but analysis from The Children's Society shows that nearly two million children in poverty miss out on the Warm Home Discount, a £135 rebate on fuel costs that could make a huge difference to low-income, vulnerable households. Discounts to energy bills for all families in poverty could help put an end to parents having to make harsh choices between being able to give their children a nutritious meal and turning the heating on. The government needs to make sure that all families with children in poverty automatically get this vital support and put an end to the huge swathes of children being left out in the cold.

We need a strategy that meets the needs of working families. The government has announced that higher income families receiving Universal Credit will get help with up to 85% of their childcare. But the poorest working families will receive only 70%. Preventing these families from getting this support is no way to end child poverty. The government needs to do more to make work pay by making sure that all families on Universal Credit get help with at least 85% of their childcare costs.

By addressing these issues and providing affordable loans to families in crisis, the government can start to make real headway towards meeting its commitment to end child poverty by 2020. There is no time to waste.

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