Thursday, 2 July 2015

Iain Duncan Smith scraps target for raising children out of poverty

Just as BelperStuff predicted in the last post the bad news just keeps on coming in the build up to the Summer budget.

Yesterday, predictably, it was the turn of Ian Duncan Smith (IDS but here we think of him as ODS - just say ODS out loud) who stood up in parliament and announced that the government was scrapping the definition by which child poverty is measured, which effectively means that they are reneging on their election promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020. This target is enshrined in the Child Poverty Act passed by Parliament in 2010; one of the last acts of the Labour government under Gordon Brown who spoke passionately in parliament thus winning the approval of all parties in the house. The Tories included a commitment to this Act in both their 2010 and 2015 manifestos but only 54 days after this last election ODS announces that the Tory government is reneging on those promises.


The definition of child poverty is that a child living in a household with an income less than 60% of the national median average income is deemed to be impoverished. The latest figures state that 2.3 million children in Britain live in poverty. The graph above shows clearly the astonishing rise in poverty under Thatcher and then the relentless fight back against poverty waged by the Labour government post 1997. This study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) is illuminating because it shows what would have happened if Labour had not brought in measures (the green line) to support the impoverished immediately after taking office and subsequently introducing Working Tax Credit and then Child Tax Credit in April 2003. The IFS projection up to 2021 (the brown line) is driven by a calculation of the effects of ConDem policies and does not include what may be announced in the Summer budget next week ............ so if £5 billion of Child Tax Credits is cut then that forecast will become considerably worse resulting in a much steeper rise in child poverty.

According to a new report by the Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland the number of children living in poverty is predicted to increase to 4.7m by 2020, I urge you to read this article in the Independent (yes the very same newspaper that advised voters to choose the Conservative/ Liberal ticket at the election ........ some of us do not forget).

The list of broken promises is growing; in less than 7 days we have had the scrapping of investment in railway infrastructure and the abandonment of the promise to end child poverty by 2020. There will be more u-turns to come but expect them to be coddled with weasel words like this from ODS yesterday, "Eradicating child poverty is an absolute priority for this Government, and I have consistently argued that it is not enough to tackle the symptoms without also tackling the underlying causes ............. Governments will no longer just focus on moving families above a poverty line, instead we want to focus on making a meaningful change to children's lives by extending opportunity for all so both they and their children can escape from the cycle of poverty and improve their life chances.
"This process marks a shift, I hope, from solely measuring inputs of expenditure to measuring the outcomes of children focused policy."
I suppose that might mean something to a febrile Tory mind but we know what we know what he was really saying. It was succinctly put by the Shadow work and pensions minister Stephen Timms who described the ODS statement as the "obituary notice for compassionate Conservatism" (as if it ever really existed - editorial comment).
Take a look at this informative article in the Mirror. Or you might find this well written article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian says it like only she can. I think Polly summarises the governments intent very succinctly in this paragraph: 

Other things will be targeted instead – worklessness, family breakdown, addictions, debt and educational success. In doublespeak, the very meaning of the word poverty disappears when to be poor no longer means to lack money. To be poor will from now on mean to fail, to be poor apologies for human beings, people in error, in need of correction not cash. That means 64% of children formerly known as poor will now vanish from the government’s reckoning because their families are not failing, but “hardworking” – just earning too little to keep afloat. Morally they are just fine, so they are no longer poor even if they queue at food banks at the end of the week.
Barbara Castle
BelperStuff goes further than that. We do not forget all  the hoo-ha (apologies to those of you who read the initial unchecked post where this was spelt huha ....... apparently a completely different meaning) surrounding the creation in 2004 of the Centre for Social Justice, (link to the CSJ) founded by ODS and Tim Montgomerie (a so-called Tory thinker). This was at the heart of "compassionate conservatism" with the stated aim of lifting people out of poverty. In an early report the CSJ advocated setting the level of Child Tax Credit at £32.06 per week which should be borne in mind if it is abolished next week. Only 7 years ago ODS's own think tank advocated Child Tax Credit as the most effective means of alleviating child poverty.  In subsequent reports the CSJ has advocated the abolition of Child Benefit by merging it with tax credits. Surprisingly, there is a sort of logic to that approach as it would indeed target cash towards those most in need. That said, I cannot forget Barbara Castle's powerful advocacy in the 1970's for a universal benefit targeted directly at women so that, no matter what class or income bracket they would have money of their own that could be spent on the welfare of their children irrespective of the behaviour of the father/husband (National 1942 - 1986). I do not believe that the social conditions that drove Barbara to champion Child Benefits in 1975 have changed in the interim 40 years.

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