Bang goes the poverty target
WORKERS, MARCH 2009 ISSUE
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that 2.3 million children will still be in poverty in 2010, missing the government’s 1.7 million target. An extra £4.2 billion a year will have to be spent on tax credits if the target is to be met. This, equivalent to an increase of £12.50 a week for each child, would push around 600,000 above the poverty line – defined as living in a family with less than 60 per cent of the average (median) income.
The report finds that there has been a sharp rise in the number of children living in poverty who have at least one parent in work. When research was last conducted five years ago, most children in poverty had parents who were unemployed. This study shows that most children living in poverty now have at least one parent in work, but they are earning so little that they cannot drag their family above the poverty line. Low-paid and casual labour is not enough to pull families out of deprivation.
The report suggests that the recession could push many further below the poverty line owing to increased unemployment. Child poverty could rise to 3.1 million by 2020, without new policies to help low-income families.
In the longer term, the report says, money needs to be spent not just on increasing benefits, but on ensuring sufficient affordable childcare is in place to allow parents to work, and on training so that parents acquire the right skills to secure stable work, with good long-term prospects.