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TORY ministers “do not have a plan” to tackle child poverty, a group of cross-party MPs warned today.
A report from the Commons work and pensions committee called for a cross-government strategy to help millions of young people after a “lack of clear leadership and focus” had seen the problem fester.
Ministers must end their focus on only absolute poverty — less than 60 per cent of the median income for 2010/11, adjusted for inflation — and broaden deprivation measures to include relative poverty, it stressed.
Committee chairman and Labour MP Stephen Timms said the Covid-19 pandemic had only made things worse since hitting Britain in March 2020, but that official data was released so slowly that the period was not yet represented in it.
“The government’s published statistics still don’t cover the pandemic — even though [government departments including HMRC] hold a vast trove of real-time information about people’s incomes,” he pointed out.
The East Ham MP demanded ministers make much greater use of the information they already have to publish a dashboard of child income-related poverty indicators “that’s closer to real time.
“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?”
The call comes as experts predict that the issue is set to worsen in 2021/22, with the Resolution Foundation think tank warning around 400,000 extra children will soon be affected.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warned that next month’s scrapping of the £20 universal credit uplift combined with the winding down of the furlough scheme will plunge 500,000 more people — including 200,000 children — into poverty.
Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Warm words about levelling up are not enough when child poverty is climbing and will climb higher if universal credit is cut and the cost of living crisis bites.
“Now is the time for the government to show that it will not turn its back on children but will act to protect them from the toxic, lifelong effects of poverty.”
A government spokesperson claimed its Plan For Jobs is alleviating the issue by helping people to “improve their skills and move forward in their working lives.”
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