THE BLOG

The Government's Measures Need More Focus on Vulnerable Children

05/06/2014 14:45 BST | Updated 04/08/2014 10:59 BST

This final Queen's Speech before the next general election has set out some important new opportunities to improve the lives of vulnerable children and the millions of families living in poverty across the country.

But to be truly effective, the government needs to make sure that some of those who are most in need are not left out.

There are a number of areas that we are particularly focussing on because of the significance they have for vulnerable children's wellbeing. These include the introduction of tax-free childcare, the Modern Slavery Bill, changes to the law on emotional neglect and plans to increase the personal allowance for income tax.

While we welcome many of these changes, more needs to be done to help disadvantaged children.

Tax-free childcare

Childcare is critical to making work pay for the millions of working families on low-incomes that are struggling to make ends meet. But the government's new measures for tax-free childcare overlook the families that are on Universal Credit. In addition, too often families miss out on this crucial help because the system is too complex, pushing them and their children into poverty. The government's moves to make childcare more available can only be effective if it makes sure the system is simple and accessible.

The Modern Slavery Bill

The Modern Slavery Bill is a huge step forward in helping to tackle this horrific abuse. But too often victims of this brutal crime are treated as criminals. To make a real difference to the lives of trafficked children, the government must change the law so that children who are trafficked are always treated as victims.

It needs to extend guardianship for trafficked children to all children found on their own in the UK - including those fleeing war and persecution. This will help these children get the protection they need, make them more visible and keep them safe from abuse and re-trafficking. This is too important an opportunity to miss.

Emotional neglect

The current law on neglect, which dates back to Victorian times, is outdated and woefully inadequate. It is welcome news that it will be updated in the Serious Crime Bill. The police must be given the powers necessary to prosecute anybody who commits emotional cruelty to children, which will bring the law into line with the criminal offence of physical neglect.

Personal allowance for income tax

Although it is good to see the government take action to increase support for families on the lowest incomes, too often they fail to benefit from personal allowance increases because gains from tax cuts are lost through deductions from benefits. The government needs to make sure these families also benefit from this measure.

For more information about how the last three Queen's Speeches have affected children, see The Children's Society's Queen's Speech 2010-2013 analysis.