New cross-departmental strategy needed to tackle child poverty

The Work and Pensions Committee has said that the government must now commit to a cross-departmental strategy to tackle the scale of child poverty in the UK.

In addition to adopting a strategy with clear and measurable objectives, MPS are urging the government to end its focus on absolute poverty, and instead reaffirm its commitment to tracking four income-based indicators, which also include relative poverty and broader material deprivation measures.

The report adds that the quality, timeliness and completeness of data relating to child poverty must also be improved if it is to be measured properly. Good quality data is essential if the Government is to measure child poverty properly. It also calls for a single measurement framework bringing together all statistics relating to child poverty and deprivation.

Stephen Timms, chair of the committee, said: “Children growing up in the UK are far more likely to be living in poverty than adults.  The coronavirus pandemic has only made matters worse for families who were already struggling to get by. If a generation of young people facing poorer educational outcomes and chronic health problems are to be lifted out of poverty, there needs to be clear leadership and a strategy driven from the top to ensure that every part of government is focused on tackling the problems that they face.

“The government’s published statistics on families in low income are so slow to produce that they still don’t cover the pandemic—even though HMRC and DWP hold a vast trove of real time information about people’s incomes. The government needs to make much greater use of the information it already has to publish a dashboard of child income-related poverty indicators that’s closer to real time.

“At the moment, the government has no strategy and no measurable objectives against which it can be held to account. How can it hope to reduce child poverty when it doesn’t have a plan?”

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