BBC Onepolitics show


Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 19:02 GMT
Suffer the Children
Nick Watson
Nick Watson
Politics Show West Midlands

For too many children, there are no luxuries of life

After 10 years in power how is Labour doing in its stated aim to eradicate child poverty in 20 years?

If figures, compiled by the Campaign to End Child Poverty (CECP), are to be believed the answer is: not very well.

In fact almost a third of children in the West Midlands (32%) are still reckoned to be living in poverty.

The campaign claims that the UK has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialised world and that the government is set to miss its target of halving the problem by 2010, "by a wide margin".

Extreme poverty

Overall, they say that 3.8 million children in the UK live in poverty with 1.3 million living in "extreme poverty".

So how exactly do they define poverty?

The CECP consider a child to be in poverty if they are living in a household where the income is 60% of the UK median.

The Office of National Statistics say the median income for the UK in 2006 was 447 per week and in the West Midlands it is slightly lower at 415.

Cities suffering
We are calling on the Chancellor to make the 2008 budget a budget to end child poverty.
Hilary Fisher, End Child Poverty

What that means is any child in a household where the income is less than about 13,500 a year nationally or 13,000 in the West Midlands is reckoned to be living in poverty.

For the record, extreme poverty is where the household income is less than 7,000 a year - or 19 a day.

Cities with the worst levels of child poverty in the West Midlands are Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent.

Within these cities, some of the worst wards record child poverty levels at close to 50%.

Inner city wards

Three of the five worst wards are in Birmingham, including Sparkbrook (44.6%), Nechells (44.1%) and Kingstanding (43.8%).

Chancellor's Red Case
Will the Chancellor be able to afford to eradicate child poverty?

Other wards with over 40% include Low Hill (46.9%) and Bilston East (42.3%) in Wolverhampton and Bentilee and Townsend (43.4%) in Stoke on Trent.

But the ward with the highest level of child poverty anywhere in the West Midlands, according to the CECP, is Soho and Victoria in Smethwick (48.7%)

Hilary Fisher, Director of the Campaign, said "Child poverty is having a devastating impact on children in the West Midlands and we need action now to tackle it.

Hollow promise

"We are calling on the Chancellor," she continued, "to make the 2008 budget a budget to end child poverty.

"Without the investment of an extra 4bn by April 2009 the government's commitment to the child poverty targets is just a hollow promise."

The pressure is being increased with the campaign launching a month of events to highlight the issue.

For its part, the government is aware that it is lagging behind and has just launched a special dedicated unit to help hit its targets.

Work solution

The Child Poverty Unit will be run by officials from two government departments who will consult with the children's charity Barnardo's.

It will focus on getting the parents of poor children into work, and improving the health and education of less well-off youngsters.

Peter Hain
Determined to reach the 'stiff target'
Peter Hain

They claim to have lifted 600,000 children out of poverty in the last 10 years and they want to build on that success.

Stiff target

Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, told BBC radio the government was determined to reach its "stiff target" of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020.

"People will say that children are not living in the absolute deprivation they were in generations past. But compared with others and their peers in the playground and the classroom, they are.

"That is the target we have set ourselves," he insisted, "and it is a stiff one, but we are determined to halve it by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020."

Also in the programme ...

Wormwood Scrubs
We get the inside picture of life inside

As well as being practically full, are our prisons also in crisis?

There are currently around 81,500 inmates locked up in the jails of England and Wales - more than 300 of them are in police cells.

The Prison Officers Association are worried that the government is failing to provide more places and worried that staff can not be attracted to the service because it is so poorly paid.

So what is life like inside the prisons of the Midlands for inmates and prison officers and is it time to launch a new prison building programme.

BBC Midlands Home Affairs Correspondent Peter Wilson has a special report.

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