The previous Labour government lifted more than a million children out of poverty and introduced statutory child poverty targets in the Child Poverty Act 2010 and tax credits. The current government should be building on that work, rather than giving up on the aim of making sure all young people get a fair start in life.
The latest government figures show that there has been a slowdown in the progress towards abolishing child poverty in the UK, with 2.3 million children, one in five, living in relative poverty. The independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has also warned that without wide-ranging action the statutory child poverty targets will not be met. It therefore deeply concerning that the government intends to scrap these targets and remove child poverty from the remit of the commission. I profoundly disagree with this approach and believe that instead of changing the definition of child poverty, the government should bring forward a concerted plan to tackle the main drivers of child poverty.
I support amending the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to maintain the government’s duty to report on child poverty targets. On Monday January 25 Members of the House of Lords defeated the government on this issue at the Bill’s Report Stage and voted by a majority of 92 to keep income-related child poverty measures.
Approximately two-thirds of children living in poverty are in working families. The Chancellor’s Summer Budget delivered two major cuts to in-work support – one for tax credits and one for its replacement, Universal Credit. Following opposition from a number of charities and within Parliament, the government announced that their planned unfair changes to tax credits would not go ahead in April. While it is welcome that the immediate unfair cuts to tax credits was reversed, this is not the full reversal that we needed to protect working families. Indeed, more than 2.6 million families set to lose on average £1,600 a year from cuts of £3 billion to Universal Credit.
When the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is debated again in the House of Commons, I shall make clear again my strong commitment to tackling child poverty.