Child poverty targets realistic, but income needs urgent

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the ten year targets set by the Government last night to reduce child poverty are both appropriate and realistic. They are also consistent with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of halving child poverty by 2030.

“Ten years may seem like a long time but the reality is that poverty among children is deeply entrenched, and the result of years of economic changes that have impacted severely on families,” says CPAG Co-convenor Alan Johnson.

“It will take us a great deal of work as a country to reduce child poverty rates and these efforts will need to be more than just boosting families’ incomes.

“It will take ten years to really give families a pathway to better situations. Education and health must also be targeting poverty reductions among children, and communities need real boosts so that they can thrive,” says Johnson.

“The unrelenting rhetoric of paid work as the answer to getting families out of poverty is unhelpful and outdated especially when single parents are pushed into poorly paid and often precarious jobs. To this end there is a strong need to capture data on the wellbeing of families who have left benefits into work over the past five years,” says Johnson.

“Critical to improving the outlook for families is to eliminate their housing stress.”

It is commendable that the Government is using population percentages to determine the reduction; as the population increases, the targets will remain consistent.

“But any improvements to family incomes won’t occur for another five months, when the Families Package comes into effect on 1 July 2018. Many families are struggling, especially with back to school costs at this time of year,” says Associate Professor Susan St John, CPAG economics spokesperson.

By the time the Families Package comes in, families’ costs, such as rent, may have increased yet further.

“It will be much later in the year before families begin to feel the benefit of the weekly increases as many will be struggling to pay off debt. For a long time the urgent and immediate needs must continue to be met by food banks, children’s charities and homeless shelters,” says St John.

“These organisations are currently overwhelmed by need and it would be unfortunate if their supporters think that the problem has now been solved.

“One possible change to help with the urgent need would be for the Government to pay the full Working for Families package to all low-income families. This could be implemented by 1 April,” says St John.

“More than 200,000 children in the worst poverty would be helped significantly.”