Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A choice on child poverty

The Children's Commisisoner's Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty has released its Issues and Options paper [PDF] today. The big news is that they have come down firmly on the side of groups like CPAG in arguing for a universal child benefit to replace the present discriminatory system of tax credits and Working For Families payments. They're also recommending a standardised poverty measurement (so that Ministers cannot wriggle and play definition games around how much poverty there is), a warrant of fitness for rental homes, and better investment in ECE and out-of-school care to make it easier for people to work their way out of poverty. Overall, it looks like a pretty good policy package.

Of course, some of it won't come cheap. But as the report points out, child poverty imposes long-term costs. Investing in reducing it will reduce those costs, leading to long-term savings in unemployment, crime, health, and economic potential.

But even more importantly than that, the report makes it crystal clear that child poverty is not a given, that we are not helpless, that we can do something about it. And this makes it essentially a choice of government. Our government, by not taking the sorts of measures recommended in this report, has chosen to have 270,000 kids in poverty. We need to hold them accountable for that choice, and make them choose differently.