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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 16:32 GMT 17:32 UK
Poverty target 'will be missed'
A family in silhouette
Barnardo's wants more financial support for low-income families
The government will fail to halve child poverty in Britain by 2010 unless it spends another 3.8bn, a children's charity has warned.

Barnardo's said ministers were a long way from honouring the pledge Tony Blair made eight years ago.

The charity's research suggests one million children who should have been lifted out of deprivation by the end of the decade will still be in poverty.

Ministers say they have made progress in reaching the target.

'Lump sum needed'

Barnardo's said while the number of children living in poor families had fallen slowly but steadily in the late 1990s, progress had now stalled.

To meet the 2010 target, the charity said the government needed to invest a lump sum in addition to the 1bn already earmarked for tax credits in the 2007 budget.

The charity said the required figure was less than half the cost of staging the Olympics and represented less than half the 9bn paid in City bonuses last year.

But the report did congratulate the prime minister for his original "historic and ambitious" target of halving the number of children living in poverty from 3.4 million to 1.7 million by the end of the decade.

These effects can last a lifetime - children growing up in poverty have worse health, worse exam results and, very frequently, will end their adult lives still in poverty
Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey

Some 600,000 children have so far been lifted out of deprivation since the pledge was made, the charity says.

Martin Narey, Barnardo's chief executive and chairman of End Child Poverty, said the future prime minister, Gordon Brown, still had a chance to continue the battle against child poverty started by Mr Blair.

"He has a unique opportunity," he said. "His actions as prime minister could make the United Kingdom a better place for our children."

He said poverty caused children to miss out on what "most would consider essentials".

"These effects can last a lifetime - children growing up in poverty have worse health, worse exam results and, very frequently, will end their adult lives still in poverty."

'Off-track'

Mr Narey acknowledged that 3.8bn was a lot of money.

"But when you compare that to 9bn in City bonuses last year, 9bn to host the Olympics, the fact that Britain spent more than 10bn last year on champagne - it's an affordable figure," he added.

Save the Children said the report's conclusion showed the government was "dangerously off-track" in hitting its own target and would "miss it by miles"

And Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman David Laws said the study showed the government was "running out of ideas" on poverty.

In the report, It Doesn't Happen Here - The Reality of Child Poverty in the UK, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimated that the 2010 target could be reached if the child element of child tax credit was increased by 11 a week at 2007 prices.

In addition, families would also require an extra 20 a week for their third and all subsequent children through the family element of the child tax credit, the IFS said.

This would mean the government spending 3.8bn more than it had planned for.

'Committed to goal'

Other problems faced by low-income families highlighted in the report were a lack of skills for employment, poor childcare facilities and funding, rising utility bills and debts.

Barnardo's called for a UK commission on ending child poverty, more funding for childcare and schemes to prevent low-income families being penalised by private utilities companies if they cannot take advantage of payment schemes such as direct debit.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said increases to child tax credit and child benefit, announced in this year's Budget, would help thousands more children out of hardship.

"We remain committed to our historic goal to eradicate child poverty by 2020," the spokesman said.

"The most effective way of achieving this is by giving more people the opportunity to get into employment, extending childcare and enabling more people to work flexibly, as work is the most sustainable route out of poverty."




SEE ALSO
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27 Mar 07 |  UK Politics

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