Children's charity issues 5 test challenges to political parties to end child poverty

28 April 2008

Party heavyweights go head to head on child poverty

4Children sets out 5 key tests as countdown towards 2020 target begins

National children’s charity, 4Children, today launched a major new policy report, Turning up the Volume on Child Poverty which brings together contributions from frontbench spokespeople from each major political party – including Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls MP, Shadow Children’s Secretary Michael Gove MP and Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws MP.

The pamphlet, which was published with funding from the Financial Services Authority, identifies for the first time areas of mutual agreement between the parties and calls for stepped-up action on core areas of consensus. The report finds that all parties recognise that the causes and conditions of poverty are multi-faceted and require a sophisticated approach to boost family income, address barriers to employment and equip families with the skills needed to outwit disadvantage. However, the report also highlights the scale of commitments needed if we are to remove child poverty in the UK.

Whilst 4Children welcomes cross-party commitment to the aspiration of eradicating child poverty, its report argues that areas of consensus should be used as a starting point from which stepped up action should follow. Turning up the Volume on Child Poverty identifies five key poverty tests which parties are urged to benchmark their policies against. The ultimate test, the report argues, will be the follow through and commitment to radical action.

Five Tests

Test 1: Immediate investment in increasing tax credits and benefits as a route to meeting the 2010 target

Test 2: Support parents into decent and sustainable jobs

Test 3: Offer an early years childcare and wider positive activity guarantee to all children 0 -19 years old

Test 4: Schools as drivers to narrow the gap in achievement

Test 5: Build a system of seamless support for parents and families

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children said:

4Children welcomes the substantial progress since the Government pledge was made almost a decade ago which has had a positive impact on hundreds of thousands of children. However, the reality is that politicians will need to pick up the pace if we are to eliminate child poverty within the next decade. 4Children’s report launched today lays down a crucial yardstick against which the policies of all parties must be measured. Today we challenge all parties to sign up to our 5 key tests – which include policies to boost the incomes of the poorest, help parents into sustainable jobs and give the next generation the skills to outwit disadvantage – to show they are serious about ending child poverty.”

Chris Pond, Director of Financial Capability at the Financial Services Authority, said:

The lives of three million children are still blighted by poverty, a condition made worse by growing problems of debt and difficulties in their parents’ ability to make ends meet. Improving the financial capability of the UK population, one of the FSA’s statutory duties, can help to increase economic well-being across the board, and help alleviate both the risk and effects of poverty and indebtedness. We’re pleased to be able to contribute to this important initiative, which will help maintain momentum in the drive to reach the ambitious target of eradicating child poverty in a generation."

Notes to the Editor

Turning up the Volume on Child Poverty will be released on Monday 28 April at the charity’s 16th annual two day policy conference which will unite frontbench politicians to identify ways to create better futures for all children and young people. Political leaders speaking at the event, held jointly with Barnardo’s and in partnership with Working Links, include:

  •  Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg MP
  • Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Michael Gove MP
  • Children’s Minister Kevin Brennan MP
  • Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform Stephen Timms MP

— 5 Tests

Test 1: Immediate investment in increasing tax credits and benefits as a route to meeting the 2010 target
To end child poverty, a Government must invest £3 billion in tax credits and benefits which will be urgently needed to reach the interim 2010 target and have a significant impact on the incomes of the poorest. £1bn per year will be needed from then on if child poverty is to be eradicated by 2020.

Test 2: Support parents into decent and sustainable jobs
Supporting parents into work is the surest route from poverty in the long term for most families. Many families are trapped in a ‘revolving door’ cycle between low pay and worklessness. Measures to help parents off welfare and into work must therefore be tailored to overcome barriers to work and take account of parenting pressures. There should be in work mentoring for those once they are in work to help reduce the numbers who leave the jobs market.

Test 3: Offer an early years childcare and wider positive activity guarantee to all children 0-19 years
Building on the free entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds, the Government should offer an early years childcare guarantee for every parent to ensure that there is flexible and affordable childcare for all parents who need it. A guarantee of activities and support for children throughout childhood should also be made.

Test 4: Schools as drivers to narrow the gap in achievement
Raising the achievement levels of children in poverty requires a cultural change as well as a financial one. Schools need to be confident that they can demonstrate the impact they have in reducing the gap between the achievement of disadvantaged children and those who are not at a disadvantage. Personalised assessment, mentoring and learning support both in and outside the classroom are key to raise aspirations and achievement and ensure that children meet their potential.

Test 5: Build a system of seamless support for parents and families
Establishing a system of universal, responsive support for families is critical if parents are to be able to help their children to flourish. Building the family’s own capacity for self reliance is also vital which is why support to improve skills such as financial planning and capability will be a key element of the support needed.

For further information or to reserve your place at the annual 4Children policy conference, contact Julie Evans on 020 7522 6928 / 07917 870 641/ julie.evans@4Children.org.uk or Craig Jones on 07766 207 395

Following the 2008 Budget, providing the last set of measures that can have a realistic impact on poverty figures by deadline, calls have mounted for an urgent debate to step up progress towards easing the burdens on families bringing up children below the poverty line – hardened by annual figures in 2007 that showed the first increase in child poverty rates since Prime Minister Blair made his historic commitment to eradicate poverty in 1999.

The cost of child poverty in the UK

  • 3.8 million children live in poverty, one in three of all children
  •  The UK has the worst rate of child poverty in the European Union – a third of Europe’s poorest children live in the UK
  • Child poverty is three times higher than it was 20 years ago, to the extent that today one in five children live in a family where no one works at all
  • The impact of poverty means that the average child born in Kentish Town can expect to live 10 years shorter than someone living just a couple of miles away in Hampstead.

4Children
4Children is the national charity dedicated to creating opportunities and building futures for all children. It aspires to ensure that all children, young people and families have access to a creative, safe and child focused environment, and activities. 4Children provides an information line for parents and childcare professionals with advice and support on all aspects of childcare, including details of out of school clubs in your area.

FSA
The Financial Service Authority leads the £90 million National Strategy for Financial Capability, which links Government, financial services industry, voluntary sector and consumer and education groups in an aim to reach at least ten million people in five years from 2006. Financial capability is defined as being able to manage your money, keep track of your finances, plan ahead, make informed decisions about financial products, and stay up to date about financial matters. Through this strategy, the FSA has set up several main UK-wide projects. These help school children, students in further and higher education, young people not in education, employment or training (NEET), new parents and employees.Visit www.fsa.gov.uk/financial_capability

So far the FSA estimates the Strategy has reached nearly 3 million people. The FSA is also now to lead a two-year pilot project to test delivery of the UK’s first national money guidance service following an announcement by HM Treasury.

Campaign to End Child Poverty
4Children is one of over 100 member organisations of the Campaign to End Child Poverty, campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goals of halving child poverty by 2010 and ending child poverty by 2020 are met. For further information contact Julie Evans on 020 7522 6928 / 07917 870 641/ or Craig Jones on 07766 207 395.

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