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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Child poor number falls 500,000
Number of poor children
The number of children living in poor households has fallen by 500,000 since 1997, according to an official report.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report said 2.6 million children lived in poor homes during 2003/04, down from 3.1 million in 1996/97.

However, some experts suggest that the government could be set to miss its own target for reducing child poverty.

A household was deemed to be poor if its income was 60% of the national average before housing costs.

Child poverty target

The government will have been disappointed by the latest child poverty figures, which do not show the big drop that we and they were expecting
Jonathan Shaw, Institute of Fiscal Studies

The government has set a longer-term target of eradicating child poverty by 2020.

As a staging post to the meeting of this target child poverty is supposed to fall by a quarter by 2004/05.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) now believe that the government, under the terms of some poverty measures, is in danger of missing this first target.

"The government will have been disappointed by the latest child poverty figures, which do not show the big drop that we and they were expecting," Jonathan Shaw, IFS research economist, said.

"To meet the government's short-term target, the number of children in poverty will now have to fall by 300,000 before housing costs in 2004/05, and (by) 500,000 after housing costs in 2004/05.

"The former still looks likely to be achieved, but the latter does not."

Poor income boost

We are making good progress both for pensioners and children - and we should shout from the rooftops about this
Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Households Below Average Income report looked at the financial position of pensioners, families with children, and working-age adults.

The report found that the incomes of the UK's poorest households had risen in recent times.

The DWP said that the incomes of the poorest fifth of the UK population had grown by 19% since 1997, even after the rise in inflation had been factored in.

Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said that poor families with children were benefiting from new tax credits introduced during 2003/04.

Number of poor pensioners

Mr Johnson added that the number of pensioners in poverty had fallen by a quarter since 1997.

This equated to a fall of nearly 700,000 in the number of pensioners living in the demanding relative poverty measure.

"We are making good progress both for pensioners and children - and we should shout from the rooftops about this - but I am also quite clear that there is much more to do to maintain this momentum," Mr Johnson said.

However, the number of pensioners deemed as being poor - before housing costs were factored in - had remained the same at 2.2 million since 1997.

The before-housing-cost measure is seen by some commentators as the best way of gauging poverty.




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