Child Poverty Targets March 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding child poverty. 

I share and appreciate your concerns about the rates of child poverty in the UK. The latest Government figures show that there has been a slowdown in the progress towards abolishing child poverty in the UK, with 2.3 million children, one in five, living in relative poverty. Children who suffer from poverty feel its lasting effects for the rest of their lives. The Government needs to make it a priority to break the cycle of poverty by starting with children and families. It is our responsibility as citizens and parents to secure our children’s futures and livelihoods, and it is inexcusable that we are failing to do so.

The independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has also warned that without wide-ranging action the statutory child poverty targets will not be met. It therefore deeply concerning that the Government intends to scrap these targets and remove child poverty from the remit of the commission. I profoundly disagree with this approach and believe that instead of changing the definition of child poverty, the Government should bring forward a concerted plan to tackle the main drivers of child poverty. 

I am proud that the previous Labour Government lifted more than a million children out of poverty, introducing statutory child poverty targets in the Child Poverty Act 2010 and tax credits. I believe the current Government should be building on that work, rather than giving up on the aim of making sure all young people get a fair start in life. 

That is why I support amending the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to maintain the Government's duty to report on child poverty targets. On Monday 25 January Members of the House of Lords defeated the Government on this issue at the Bill's Report Stage and voted by a majority of 92 to keep income-related child poverty measures. 

Approximately two-thirds of children living in poverty are in working families and as I am sure you are aware, the Chancellor's Summer Budget delivered two major cuts to in-work support - one for tax credits and one for its replacement, Universal Credit. Following opposition from a number of charities and within Parliament, the Government announced that their planned unfair changes to tax credits would not go ahead in April. While it is welcome that the immediate unfair cuts to tax credits was reversed, this is not the full reversal that we needed to protect working families. Indeed, more than 2.6 million families set to lose on average £1,600 a year from cuts of £3 billion to Universal Credit. 

This issue is extremely important to me personally. Nottingham North is the 5th most deprived constituency in the UK, and 9,945 children are living in poverty. That is a child poverty rate of 36.8%, double the 18.2% child poverty rate of the UK as a whole. Nottingham North has the 4th highest rate of child poverty out of the 650 constituencies. My patch is the 2nd most deprived area in the UK in terms of child poverty in low-income families.

We should all be in the fight against childhood poverty together, but it often feels that we are not. I looked for the number of people in my constituency who will benefit from changes to inheritance tax, and after a lot of searching I came up with a large zero. Unfortunately, it did not take long to find the number of people in my constituency who will not be benefiting from the changes to tax credit, because 12,300 children will be affected. We are not “all in it together”, because those kids are not in it with those whose families have higher incomes and should be shouldering a fair share— nothing more—of the tax burden in our country. Four out of five families in my constituency receive tax credits, so the Government’s cuts will have devastating effects. The Government is failing the children who most need their help.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views which I will bear in mind when the Welfare Reform and Work Bill is debated again in the House of Commons. I hope this letter outlines my strong commitment to tackling child poverty, and I assure you that I will follow this matter closely.