End Child Poverty – policy platform 2015
Every day End Child Poverty members see the real impacts that poverty has on the daily lives of children today. Children lack basic living necessities such as a warm winter coat or properly fitting shoes and are unable to take part in activities with their friends. Low income affects direct measures of children’s well-being and development, including their cognitive ability, achievement and engagement in school, anxiety levels and behaviour.
The End Child Poverty coalition exists to hold the Government, and all main political parties, to account for their commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020. With just 5 years to go until this deadline, it is now more important than ever for the coalition to have a clear platform of policy priorities from which to pursue this goal. With this in mind, this policy statement establishes the coalition’s policy priorities for the coming 3-year period.
Every child should live in a family that is able to afford the basic essentials
All the main political parties are committed to eradicating child poverty in the UK by 2020. This shared commitment was enshrined in the 2010 Child Poverty Act. However, according to the latest statistics 3.7 million children live in poverty, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that, rather than reach the target, this number is likely to grow by 700,000 by the end of the decade.
Whilst some of the measures outlined in the government’s child poverty strategy are welcome, it falls well short of what is required to put the UK on a clear downward trajectory of child poverty and achieve the goal of ending child poverty by 2020. There is no roadmap to how the government will reach its 2020 target.
The government needs to develop a road map for eradicating child poverty by 2020, which sets out the steps that the government will take in order to achieve this goal and the measures by which it will track its progress and be held to account.
The link between uprating of benefits for children’s benefits and tax credits and inflation should be restored as a first step towards protecting the incomes of families with children living below the poverty line.
Every child’s need for decent living standards must be at the heart of any parental employment strategy
Six in every ten children in poverty are in low income working families. We are concerned that for too many families a move into work is not a move out of poverty. The growth of “in work” poverty is due to a number of factors including pressure on public spending – and therefore willingness to invest in support to working households – and to labour market changes including wages increasing by less than inflation and significant levels of part time work.
Government policy has focussed on increasing personal allowances for taxation as the way of addressing low incomes for working households. This is a relatively costly and poorly targeted policy for the purposes of alleviating child poverty, particularly since many low income families lose much of any gain from tax allowances through consequential deductions from benefits. It is vital that government more widely review support for low income working families with children.
The government should draw up a strategy to address support for those on low pay so that all working parents have sufficient income to raise their children out of poverty. In-work benefits and tax credits, hours, progression, skills, childcare costs and job security must all be addressed.
The government should increase work allowances for in-work benefits in line with increases in personal allowances for income tax. This would ensure that families do not lose any gains from rises in tax allowances as a result of consequential benefit deductions.
The cap on maximum support on childcare costs should be substantially increased in order to reflect increases in childcare costs since this limit was last raised.
Every child should be able to make the most of their learning and development.
Too often children’s educational outcomes are hampered by living in poverty. This happens right from the start of a child’s life, with the highest early achievers from deprived backgrounds overtaken by lower achieving children from advantaged backgrounds by age five. These differences continue into secondary school years, with Department for Education (DfE) figures showing that pupils eligible for free school meals were half as likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, than other children.
Schools must be more transparent with parents and students on how pupil premium money is spent. Young People and their families for whom pupil premium money is paid should have a say in how it is spent.
No child should ever be excluded from school activities by an inability to pay.
Every child should have a secure and warm home.
Having a decent and secure home is a basic entitlement for every child. Too often children in low income families live in cramped, poor quality homes, often with insecure tenure. 1 in 10 households are unable to afford to properly heat their home. The consequences of this can include children facing ill health, a poor learning environment in the home, and severe tensions within the family home.
Help with housing costs should be increased in line with local rents, to ensure that every family is able to afford a decent home in their local community.
Every family in poverty should receive the Warm Home Discount in order to ensure they are able to afford to heat their home.
Every child should have enough good food to keep them healthy and help them grow.
A good diet is crucial to children’s health, learning and development. However, too often children in poverty have a poor diet and even go hungry – nearly three quarters of teachers say they experience children coming into school with no lunch and no means to pay for one. Doctors and hospitals are seeing a rise in children suffering from ailments caused by poor diet and have linked the trend to people’s inability to afford quality food.
Shockingly half a million children in poverty are still not entitled to receive a free school meal – normally simply because their parents are working. We believe every child in poverty should be entitled to receive a free school meal.
Free School Meals should be provided for every child living in poverty, including those in low income working families.
Local Welfare Assistance schemes provide crucial support for families facing emergencies – including those who have nothing with which to feed their children. However, in many areas these schemes are under threat.
Every local authority should have an effective local welfare assistance scheme which provides financial support for families facing a crisis. The government must ensure that they provide the sustainable funding needed to secure this.