Child Poverty should be eradicated by 2020

The former Labour health secretary, Alan Milburn, has recently criticised the government’s plans to eradicate poverty by 2020, stating that £19 bn would have to be spent to achieve the goal by 2027. According to Milburn, there is a good possibility of missing the target because the biggest redistribution of income in history will be required to do so seven years earlier. Although child poverty numbers have substantially fallen to an almost 30-year low, Britain was unable to meet its targets of halving it by 2010. The reduction in numbers has been primarily attributed to a drop in median household incomes.

Child poverty is defined by the government as children living in homes with less than 60 per cent of the average UK income. The 2020 target of eradicating child poverty was first agreed by the Labour government in 1999, with the legislative procedures completed by 2010; the coalition accepted it when it came to power. Ministers say that poverty should not be calculated solely on a household’s income, that it should take into account problems such as unemployment, family breakdown and addiction, as well.

If the government does choose to broaden the factors that it currently classifies as contributing to child poverty, the problems mentioned by ministers, should most definitely not be included. This is because some of those conditions, although possibly affecting family life in general and fanning an unpleasant environment at home for children, does not necessarily have to bring about child poverty. What it could stand to do, instead, is worsen the situation at such low-earning households.

Issues such as unemployment, particularly, could take a turn for the worse because parents would then have the choice of opting to stay out of work for a longer period of time because they can do so, given that a significant percentage of their costs and expenditures, of looking after their children, are already taken care of by the government. This could, in turn, also worsen the environment at home for young children in such cases because they would then be living with long-term unemployed parents. Family breakdown and addiction could also be further fuelled rather than be helped, with much of the household costs scrapped.

First and foremost, if it is possible to do so, the budget that has been set out for the programme by the government should not be stretched further. Much of the programme focuses on helping families to cope with young children, such as shared parental leave and free nursery schemes, with very little attention being paid to protecting the children themselves. Child poverty can be eradicated closer to the set out 2020 target by investing more on young children’s development, instead.

Children from households with a low median income should not feel at a disadvantage because of their parents financial circumstances. The government, therefore, needs to ensure that it can provide proper education, proper exposure to healthy habits and choices to make sure that children can make the right choices in their lives, better access to facilities such as healthcare, and a greater chances of being employed themselves.