The Child Poverty Act 2010
The Child Poverty Act 2010 received Royal Assent on 25 March whilst Labour was still in power, ensuring that reducing child poverty was enshrined in Law. The Act now requires the government to publish a national child poverty strategy by 25 March 2011 which will be published every three years to 2020.
The Strategy will propose what action needs to be taken in each area in order to meet targets and reduce socio-economic disadvantage and will assess progress to be made by 2014. It will also assess the groups most at risk of poverty and disadvantage and consider how policy implementation has impacted on each group.
Under the Act each Local Authority for their local area will need to cooperate with other statutory partners to reduce child poverty, will need to publish a local child poverty needs assessment and prepare a child poverty strategy.
The Government’s Proposals
With the coalition government now in power, they argue that targets should focus more on the underlying causes of poverty. The Coalition commissioned an independent review on child poverty conducted by Frank Field. The report ‘The Foundation Years; preventing poor children becoming poor adults’ was published in December 2010.
The review suggests that greater attention and resources should be focused on the first few years of a child’s life. The government therefore propose switching focus from traditional anti-poverty measures based on income to improving children’s life chances.
However the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in their response to the review argue that the gap between richer children and poorer children continues to grow and that it is not driven by early years experiences alone. They argue that policy that aims to reduce parental worklessness and improve earnings inequality will have a greater impact on social mobility therefore reducing child poverty. They go on to say that evidence shows that early education attainment and the home learning environment ‘has only a minor influence on outcomes at age 16’.
Impact of the cuts and welfare reform on tackling child poverty
The Child Poverty Action Group which is the leading charity for fighting child poverty has publicly stated their concerns over welfare reform and the potential negative impact this could have on families. The charity Save the Children recently published a report stating that 1.6 million youngsters in Britain are living in severe poverty. With rising unemployment and changes to the welfare system the charity expresses real concerns that the number will rise.
Government data published in December 2010 highlights the revenue spending power for each Local Authority. The data shows that the spending power for Kensington and Chelsea has been reduced from £217m in 2010/11 to £206m for 2011/12. This reveals a loss of £11.4m equal to 5.7%. The concern now is how this will impact on measures to tackle and reduce child poverty locally.
Child poverty in Kensington and Chelsea
Save the Children research for 2011 shows that 6000 children in Kensington and Chelsea are living in poverty translating to 19% of 0-18 year olds or almost 1 in 5 are affected.
RBKC are currently developing a child poverty strategy which needs to be produced by April 2011 and will incorporate wider measures than previously considered.
To continue to support the reduction of child poverty in the borough, the voluntary and community sector needs to ensure that:
- Officers and Commissioners know how services can support measures to improve outcomes for children and families based on new government policy.
- Measure and report on the difference your service is making to the lives of children and families.
- Work in partnership to strengthen services, outreach and outcomes.