UK govt to blame for 1.4m children in ‘relative poverty' – charity

One of the UK’s leading charities says the government will fail to reduce child poverty by half in time for its 2020 target, and claims its policies risk creating a “permanently divided” society unless “radical" new approaches are taken.

The "State of the Nation" report, produced annually by The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC) said poverty in the UK was not being handled adequately by the government, adding that housing costs and soaring youth unemployment needed to be tackled.

The report, published on Monday, also says working families from poor backgrounds should be made exempt from austerity measures and that the UK should adopt a living wage by 2025 to reduce poverty.

SMCPC Chairman Alan Milburn, a former Labour MP, said austerity measures had “discredited existing child poverty targets and failed to put in place new ones,” and that the Labour Party’s plan to increase the minimum wage modestly to £8.00 by 2019 would not be enough to bridge the divide between rich and poor.

Anti-poverty targets were put in place by Labour in 2010, with the aim to reduce the number of children living below the breadline by 50 percent by 2020. Currently, children are deemed to be living in poverty if their family income is less than 60 percent of the UK average.

According to the report, absolute child poverty increased by 300,000 between 2010 and 2013. Milburn warned the number would rise significantly over the next few years. At present, 1.4 million children live in "relative poverty".

The report also blames rising rents and mortgage costs as a key driver of UK poverty.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Monday, Milburn said politicians needed a “more rounded sense of what makes people poor,” adding that political parties needed to “reconcile very good social ends and fiscal and other policies they want to pursue.”

The report follows warnings from the Bank of England (BoE) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) that suggest the UK will see a slowdown in economic growth, in part because of a steep decline in real wages and spending power.

The UK economy is expected to grow by 3.5 percent this year, and 3 percent in 2015, according to forecasts from the BoE. However, the IMF has downgraded these estimates, suggesting the UK will grow by 3.2 percent by the end of 2014, and 2.7 percent in 2015.

ICYMI