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Action Plan won't deliver for Children

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has dismissed the government’s Children Results Action Plan to support vulnerable children as a public relations exercise. While improving specific aspects of children’s health and access to early childhood education are good in themselves, the report fails to grapple in any meaningful way with the drivers of poor outcomes.

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has dismissed the government’s Children Results Action Plan to support vulnerable children as a public relations exercise. While improving specific aspects of children’s health and access to early childhood education are good in themselves, the report fails to grapple in any meaningful way with the drivers of poor outcomes. “Despite saying they are doing something about child poverty, the government seems reluctant to stump up any new spending to deal with this social blight. Instead, the badly designed Working for Families and the gradual erosion of social spending have made living conditions for many children worse since the onset of the recession.

“It is disingenuous to repackage targets set for the public service which were announced back in July, as an Action Plan for Children. A comprehensive action plan needs to address underlying issues of poverty and disadvantage, not tinker with a few outcomes such as reducing rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever is a disease of poverty, and occurs when children live in poor quality housing. We need to be looking at housing issues and access to health services, not hoping it will go away with throat swabs and raising community awareness. A comprehensive plan would also incorporate all sectors and look at integrating them so that they deliver quality services to all children, with a goal of improving incomes and reducing social inequalities. These targets do not do this.”

CPAG says the government needs to rethink its strategy along the lines of the report from Every Child Counts, which calls for greater spending on children and the provision of universal services as the cheapest and most effective way for all children to get the services they need. Treating all low income children as equally worthy of the same weekly income support through Working for Families is one obvious place to start.

“In his extensive report on reducing health inequalities, Sir Michael Marmot argued that targeted services do not reduce inequalities. The most effective services are universally provided, with greater resources going to the worst off. For any action plan to have a real and sustained effect on improving outcomes for children, household income and housing must be addressed. Anything else is just putting the problem to one side.”