Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/813/18704
Children handed poverty "life sentence"
Five million children condemned to poverty by 2020. This is the stark reality for low-income families in Britain.
A new charity report - A Fair Start for Every Child - warns of child poverty "among the highest ever recorded in the UK."
Save the Children's report blames welfare cuts, flatlining wages and the ballooning cost of living. Its research shows that this "triple whammy" has disproportionately affected children of lower earners. And these children can look forward to a lifetime of poverty.
Food prices have bulged, growing by 19% more than other goods from 2007 to 2011. Poorer children are more likely to develop asthma, diabetes and obesity. In some areas, more than one in ten families can't afford new shoes for their kids.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 committed all political parties to eliminate this blight by 2020. The charity slams this legislation as "window dressing", saying now only a "radical strategy" can achieve the goal.
Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: "The government is committed to ending child poverty by tackling its root causes as part of our long-term economic plan." But the report identifies three key drivers for childhood poverty.
Low wages, no social security and high cost of living. Coalition policy is exacerbating all three. The report itself is based on applying the effects of promised cuts to the government's own statistics.
Labour blames the Tories. "Under David Cameron child poverty is set to rise, not fall, and the cost-of-living crisis has left millions of families struggling to make ends meet." This is true.
But Labour has promised to match Coalition cuts. And the research shows that underlying trends started in 2004, under Labour!
Small wonder the report finds that the main parties' "commitments are no longer credible."
The charity's proposals are modest. Quality, affordable childcare for all. A guaranteed income for parents of under-fives. And a "national mission" for children to read well by eleven.
The Socialist Party supports these measures. But if we are to seriously address the question of childhood poverty, we need more.
We need control of the billions that austerity has siphoned off from workers and the poor.
By 2020, "the face of poverty in the UK will be that of a child, usually within a working family." Only socialist policies can grant children clemency from a "life sentence" of want.
In The Socialist 4 June 2014:
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