Child poverty figures a 'tragedy' say Christian campaigners

By staff writers
March 27, 2007

Christians have responded with 'shock and sadness' to the news that the number of children living in relative poverty in the UK rose by 200,000 last year.

Official figures released today (Tuesday) have revealed the first increase in nearly a decade, and casts doubt on the government's target of halving child poverty by 2010.

In 2005-6, 3.8m children were in relative poverty - defined as homes on less than 60% of average income net of housing costs.

Church Action on Poverty, a member of the End Child Poverty campaign, said the figures were a 'tragedy' and showed that the poorest in society were being failed.

With housing costs not taken into account, the number of children living below the relative poverty line was 2.8 million.

The figures represent an increase from 3.6 million and 2.7 million respectively in the previous year.

Since 1998/99, 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty.

But to reach their stated targets, ministers must now help lift a further 1.1 million children above the poverty line by 2010 - or 1.6 million after housing costs are included.

Niall Cooper, National Coordinator of Church Action on Poverty said: "It is disturbing that in spite of the Government's commitment to end child poverty, the numbers of children in poverty in the UK have actually increased. 

"This is a tragedy for those children and families directly affected, and an indictment of society at large.  In spite of our growing prosperity as a nation, we are failing many of the poorest and most vulnerable in society -
including children in particular.

"As last months UNESCO report showed, the UK has one of the worst records on child poverty of any developed nation.  These latest figures are a wake up call not just to politicians who profess to want to end child poverty but to all of us.  We can - and we must - be willing to share the nations' prosperity more equitably, and to invest in our childrens' future. 

"Gordon Brown's latest budget, far from offering tax cuts, should have given greater priority to tackling child
poverty" he said.

"The Christian Churches must take a leaf out of the Make Poverty History campaign, and take a lead in campaigning to end the scandal of poverty within our own shores."

The Government said rise in the number of self-employed people falling below the line contributed significantly to this year's rise.

In last week's Budget, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced increases in benefits and tax credits aimed at lifting more than 200,000 children out of poverty.

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