THE WORK AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE’S FIRST REPORT as part of its inquiry into children in poverty underscores the impact of poverty in childhood for children’s lived experiences now, and for outcomes later in life, including in health and education. 

In addition to adopting a strategy with clear and measurable objectives, the report calls for the Government to end its focus on absolute poverty, and instead reaffirm its commitment to tracking four income-based indicators, which also include relative poverty and broader material deprivation measures.

The quality, timeliness and completeness of data relating to child poverty must also be improved if it is to be measured properly, the report adds. It also calls for a single measurement framework bringing together all statistics relating to child poverty and deprivation.

Stephen Timms, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “Children growing up in the UK are far more likely to be living in poverty than adults. The coronavirus pandemic has only made matters worse for families who were already struggling to get by. If a generation of young people facing poorer educational outcomes and chronic health problems are to be lifted out of poverty, there needs to be clear leadership and a strategy driven from the top to ensure that every part of Government is focused on tackling the problems that they face.

“Ministers told us that they are focused on the absolute measure of poverty. But anyone who uses only one measure of poverty is missing out on the important information provided by the whole range of measures that DWP itself produces. We were concerned by the narrowness of their focus.

“The Government’s published statistics on families in low income are so slow to produce that they still don’t cover the pandemic – even though HMRC and DWP hold a vast trove of real time information about people’s incomes. The Government needs to make much greater use of the information it already has to publish a dashboard of child income-related poverty indicators that’s closer to real time.

“At the moment, the Government has no strategy and no measurable objectives against which it can be held to account. How can it hope to reduce child poverty when it doesn’t have a plan?”

Commenting on the report, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “Warm words about levelling up are not enough when child poverty is climbing and will climb higher if universal credit is cut and the cost of living crisis bites. Now is the time for the Government to show that it will not turn its back on children in low income families but will act to protect them from the toxic, lifelong effects of poverty. The Committee is right to insist on a cross-departmental poverty-reduction plan with clear targets and championed from Number 10. Without that focus and commitment, rising poverty will prove to be a ticking time bomb for children and for our wider prosperity.”

* Read the report here.

* Sources: Work and Pensions Committee and Child Poverty Action Group