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Last Updated: Monday, 3 March 2008, 12:31 GMT
Child poverty targets 'will fail'
Child on bike
Some children have a higher risk of poverty than others
The government is expected to miss its target of halving the number of children living in poverty by some one million, MPs have warned.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said the target could be achieved by the due date of 2010, but only if more resources were made available.

The plan to halve child poverty was announced by Tony Blair in 1999.

Since then the number has fallen by 600,000 to 2.8m - well short of the 1.7m target.

'Own poor choices'

The committee said some groups of children had a much higher risk of growing up in poverty, including those who were disabled or who had a disabled parent.

It was "particularly concerned" that one in five families with a disabled child was so financially constrained that it had to cut down on food.

Many assume... that if someone is poor it must be due to their own poor choices or personal failings
Commons Work and Pensions Committee

The rates of poverty among Pakistani and Bangladeshi children were twice those found with white children, while black children also suffered higher rates of poverty than whites.

The rates of poverty were also particularly high in London, the committee said.

The committee endorsed the government's strategy of trying to help parents find "sustainable" work to lift families out of poverty.

But it said it was concerned the Jobseekers Allowance regime was too inflexible to cope with the "complexity" of many lone parents' situations.

'Absolute low income households' - those with incomes that are consistently less than 60% of the national median income
'Relative low income households' - those at any one time that are less than 60% of the national median income
'Material depravation' - a 'deprivation score' of 25 or more and a household income below 70% of the national median
'Deprivation score' is established by asking whether a household lacks each of 10 items because they cannot afford it
The items include family holidays, separate bedrooms for children of different sexes aged over 10 and religious celebrations
Each item lacking is weighted by the proportion of the population that has access to them

SOURCE: House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee

It also recommended the government do more to change the public perception of poverty at a time when sympathy for the poor was at a "low level".

"Many assume that poverty is only a problem in developing countries and the UK's economic success means that if someone is poor it must be due to their own poor choices or personal failings," it said.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said the government had made significant progress, but acknowledged that more needed to be done.

"Work has been key to this success - there are now nearly 3 million more people in employment, and the lone parent employment rate has risen dramatically," he said.

"We are putting sustainable employment at the heart of our welfare reforms. We have done a lot, but there is still more to do."

Julian Walker, UK director of policy and research at children's charity Barnardo's, said: "The longer children are left in poverty, the more damaging its impact on them.

'Bold action' needed

"As this report illustrates, a childhood in poverty causes effects which last well into adulthood. Fewer opportunities lead to lower expectations, driving the transmission of poverty from one generation to the next.

"We support the committee's call for the government to take the lead in challenging the public's misconceptions around the causes of poverty in the UK."

The chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green, said: "Britain has the wealth to end child poverty, it now requires the moral courage of the nation to ensure the necessary steps are taken.

"The report leaves no doubt that the promise to halve child poverty by 2010 can be met, but it requires bold action in next week's Budget."

She called for "the 4 billion investment to be made that will ensure the promise to Britain's poorest children is not broken".

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