We need a new approach to child poverty

Dan JarvisDan Jarvis, the Labour MP for Barnsley Central, says tackling child poverty should be the cause of our times. This article first appeared in Scotland on Sunday.

 

In Scotland today 220,000 children face a future shaped by poverty, despite the fact that two-thirds of them are growing up in a home where at least one parent works.

For those children this can mean living in a cold and cramped home, falling behind in school, and not being able to join in activities with friends. That is why in the wake of Challenge Poverty Week, we should rededicate ourselves to ensuring that child poverty is not part of Scotland’s future.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that over this parliament we will witness the biggest increase in child poverty in a generation. So the time for action is now.

I am introducing a bill into the UK Parliament to set an ambitious target to reverse this trend. It is my hope that it can realise a common purpose to tackle child poverty.

A new and binding target will build consensus for action and hold those in power to account for the impact of policy choices. I hope to work on a cross-party basis to share expertise and build pressure for action across communities, employers and civil society.

I am pleased to receive the backing of the Poverty Alliance. As their director Peter Kelly says, “Poverty affects all aspects of a child’s life chances. In order to tackle poverty we need meaningful targets and a proper reporting mechanism.”

The last Labour government’s record reminds us what can be achieved. Labour delivered the biggest improvement of any EU nation in lifting one million children out of poverty, transforming so many lives. We have a duty to this generation to make progress once again.

The UK government’s Autumn Statement in a month’s time is an opportunity to put children first and reverse the worsening trend. Planned changes to both taxes and benefits over the next four years will take more than one pound in every ten from the pockets of the poorest families. That is divisive and shortsighted, particularly with prices at the tills expected to rise.

Therefore the Chancellor should make a clear commitment to those who have been left behind by ending the freeze on working-age benefits. It is estimated that one in every five pounds of public spending is associated with poverty. As well as redirecting public spending, poverty worsens the key economic challenges we face. Poverty lowers productivity and limits spending power, undermining the strong economy we need for the future.

The Chancellor should also take the opportunity to make a cost-effective investment in all of our futures. The importance of a child’s early years in forming their life chances is well understood. A child born in a deprived area is likely to die nine years earlier than someone from a wealthier postcode. That is why intervention is crucial in those first years of life.

This approach recognises the link between children’s earliest years and their future life chances. The weight of expert opinion in favour of early intervention is overwhelming. So that must be our priority, because it is a smart investment for the future and it will change lives today.

Child poverty should scar our conscience as much as it does our children’s futures. It limits all of our potential because to succeed in the future we must create a country which makes the most of all our talents.

I look forward to engaging with Scottish charities and voluntary organisations in bringing my Private Member’s Bill to Parliament. I hope that it receives support from across political divides and we rediscover a cross-party consensus on child poverty. By doing so we can provide security, opportunity, and hope to those children who need it most. That is the cause of our times.

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6 thoughts on “We need a new approach to child poverty

  1. “The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that over this parliament we will witness the biggest increase in child poverty in a generation. So the time for action is now.”

    Ah another of our Union benefits. Ideologically imposed poverty through deliberate targeted austerity.

    “I am introducing a bill into the UK Parliament to set an ambitious target to reverse this trend. It is my hope that it can realise a common purpose to tackle child poverty.”

    Introducing a bill into a Parliament that doesn’t give a flying fuck about the effects of poverty because its ideological purpose in life is to inflict it and widen the social gap still further. But I bet its looks good on your resume eh Dan?

    A new and binding target will build consensus for action and hold those in power to account for the impact of policy choices. I hope to work on a cross-party basis to share expertise and build pressure for action across communities, employers and civil society.

    And all for nothing because the Parliament as usual is controlled and run by Neo Conservatives put there by 24% of the electorate.
    But hey we’re still “Better Together” and pooling and sharing our poverty experiences.

    “The last Labour government’s record reminds us what can be achieved. Labour delivered the biggest improvement of any EU nation in lifting one million children out of poverty, transforming so many lives. We have a duty to this generation to make progress once again.”

    Oh we’re peddling this myth again. OK So will somebody finally give me a single name of a single child taken out of poverty by Labour?
    Come on you have over a million to choose from don’t you? If that’s too hard how about the name of a single family who’s lives have been transformed for the better by Labour?
    A nice ordinary poor family would be nice not the family of a newly elected Labour councillor or MSP or MP.

    “The UK government’s Autumn Statement in a month’s time is an opportunity to put children first and reverse the worsening trend.”

    In what universe will this be an opportunity? The Neo Cons have an overwhelming majority thanks to the failures of the Labour party. Its all empty worthless rhetoric.

    Scotland still has to share in this Westminster imposed ideological Neo Conservative dogma because we failed to take our chance to free ourselves of it for all time.

    If Labour are genuinely looking for a REAL opportunity to change the direction of poverty in Scotland the vote Yes to Indy ref 2 and vote Yes in Indyref 2.

    That is the ONLY opportunity Scots will have to actually deal with poverty in Scotland.

    1. Don’t forget this doozie:
      “A new and binding target…”
      Bzzzt Fail!
      No government can bind another.

    2. Poverty will get much worse if we vote for independence, unless of course you think the huge deficit is another Westminster con….oh wait, you probably do.

      1. The huge deficit we have – around 9% of GDP compared to half that figure for the UK as a whole – is the situation we have under Westminster’s control. Independence will give us the powers we need to grow our economy.

        In addition, if Scotland remains as part of the EU as an independent country, expect the major banks to move their headquarters to Edinburgh to retain passporting rights – and wait until you see how much that will bring to the public revenues 🙂

  2. I agree, but individual household income and expenditure would need to be scrutinised. If ever these type of strategies are not to be undermined, realism (like financial priorities) have to be examined.

  3. Poverty is something that has sadly affected Scots disproportionally through the ages.

    Keeping our independence wouldn’t have avoided that but the fact remains if the Union is supposed to benefit a majority of Scots and not the just privileged, it has seldom worked out that way.

    After 2 centuries of high emigration after the Act of Union, it was only in the last 30 years out of the first 300 that the number of people coming to Scotland has been higher than the numbers leaving.

    This emigration is largely down to a combination of low wages, poor housing conditions and unemployment.

    If the Union was supposed to pull Scotland up to the same levels of prosperity as England, for the first 200 years it failed to achieve this.

    For example in the early 1900s two thirds of Scotland’s population lived in houses with 1-2 rooms. In England the equivalent figure was just 7%.

    The period where economic and social conditions for Scots improved vastly were during the post-war Labour Government years and the Labour Government in the late 1990s.

    There in lies the paradox for Labour, life only gets better for Scots on the few occasions we get a Labour Government. But for the majority of history we have had to suffer Conservative rule.

    If the Union’s core purpose is ‘pooling and sharing’ then what is the future for that? David Cameron may have signed up to keeping the Barnett formula until 2020 but he and his allies have been swept aside by the tide of history.

    The right wing of the Conservative party is at the helm and key figures like Boris Johnstone and Priti Pratel are on record as saying Barnett must be scrapped.

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