In Brief

Tories 'failing to protect' children, says report to UN

Government's own children's rights watchdog calls for an urgent end to 'disgraceful' benefits cuts

The government is being urged to halt its programme of welfare cuts in order to prevent millions more children being pushed into a life of poverty.

A damning report by the Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which will be submitted to the UN, warns that rising levels of child poverty require "urgent attention" from the government.

Austerity policies have "resulted in a failure to protect the most disadvantaged children from child poverty, preventing the realisation of their rights," the report said.

The commissioners warned that the number of British children living in poverty is set to rise to 4.7 million in the next five years, as forecasted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

This is in "stark contrast" to a report by the government last week which claimed child poverty was as its lowest level since the 1980s, says The Independent

The cuts were described as a "disgrace" by Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people. "It is deeply disturbing that the UK Government, aware of the current and future impact of its cuts, appears to be targeting the most vulnerable people in our society," he said.

The report comes as Chancellor George Osborne is preparing to unveil his July Budget which is expected to include another 12bn in welfare cuts.

The Child Poverty Action Group described the report as a "welcome intervention". Chief executive Alison Garnham told the BBC: "We cannot be claiming to be reducing the deficit in the name of our children if we're choosing to do that through policies that damage children's lives and prospects."

But a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions accused the commissioners of ignoring the latest figures on child poverty.

"The best route out of poverty is work and this government makes no apology for its efforts to raise incomes by expanding employment opportunities," they said.

Cameron accused of 'moving the goalposts' on child poverty

25 June

David Cameron has come under fire for planning to redefine child poverty, as figures are set to reveal that the number of children living in poverty has increased for the first time in a decade. 

Official statistics are due out later today, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasting an increase from 2.3 million to 2.5 million children in poverty, The Guardian reports. 

Under the current definition, a child is deemed to be living in poverty if they are in a household with an income that is less than 60 per cent of the national average. But the government is considering plans to change the way this is measured, arguing that the figures are a not a true reflection.

In a speech earlier this week, Cameron hinted at plans to alter the definition. "Because of the way [child poverty] is measured, we are in the absurd situation where if we increase the state pension, child poverty actually goes up," he argued.

However, the Guardian notes that Cameron is unlikely to announce any planned changes today so as to avoid accusations that he is trying to dodge his record on child poverty.

But that hasn't stopped members of the opposition from taking aim at the Prime Minister. "Cameron seeking to redefine child poverty to hide it tells you everything about his miserable failings as PM to eradicate it," Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted.

Anti-poverty campaigners, who argue the government's planned welfare cuts are likely to make child poverty even worse, were also quick to criticise the plans. "It's a tactic that looks remarkably like moving the goalposts," says the Child Poverty Action Group.

"It is no good pulling bodies out of the river, without going upstream to see who is throwing them in – especially, if it turns out the culprit is government policy," said the charity's chief executive Alison Garnham. 

However, The Times agrees that the definition is not representative and suggests that the idea of poverty could be broadened to include access to public services. "Most poor families receive a lot of services and therefore the total amount of household income is rather greater than is implied currently."

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation acknowledges that poverty measurements are not perfect, but says it is essential that the country has a way to measure progress.

"Without action, 1 in 3 children will be living in poverty by 2020," says chief executive Julia Unwin. "It's time for sustained cross-party support to tackle the causes of poverty rather than allowing a debate about a new measure to stand in the way of action."

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