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16 June 2009

Government commitment on child poverty to be enshrined in law

The Government is today publishing a landmark child poverty bill that enshrines in law a duty to eradicate child poverty by 2020 - so that all children have the best start in life and have the opportunities to flourish.

The cross departmental bill requires Government to reduce poverty so families on low income do not get left behind. It puts duties on local authorities, and partner organisations like the NHS and Police to work together at local level to lift children out of poverty.

It also requires Government to report to Parliament each year on progress and creates a new expert Child Poverty Commission to publish advice and encourage progress.

500,000 children have been lifted out of poverty already and measures currently in train are expected to lift around a further half a million children out of poverty.

The target for relative poverty requires the UK to go further than the best currently being achieved in Denmark, Finland and other European countries.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Yvette Cooper said:

"This Bill is about the society we want to live in, and the type of country we want our children to grow up in. If children are stuck in bad housing with no space to do their homework, if they can’t afford to go on school trips with their friends, and if their families are struggling with financial worries it can affect their chances throughout their lives. That’s why we have to keep on making progress to cut child poverty and build a fairer society.

"One of the biggest causes of child poverty is worklessness. We’re determined not to abandon communities to long term unemployment. This could lead to generation after generation of families falling into and staying in poverty, as many did in the 1980s. That is why we’re investing an extra £5bn over the next two years to tackle unemployment and helping people into jobs – and help fight child poverty.”

Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls said:

“Every child matters and deserves a fair chance to succeed. That is why we must do everything we can to make sure children don’t get held back because they grow up in poverty. This Government has lifted over half a million children out of relative poverty, but there is much more to do and this Bill is a historic step in the right direction.

“Since 1997 we have seen the creation of a Sure Start Generation of children who are developing and thriving in family friendly Children’s Centres across the country. Alongside this we are now beginning to see the impact on families as parents benefit from a range of services and support to help them stay in or get into employment.

“Today’s Bill enshrines in law the fact that lifting all children out of poverty is everyone’s responsibility and how we are going to work across Government and local partners to beat it.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne said:

"Today's landmark bill is vital to achieving a fairer society for our children and our children's children. In these difficult economic times, it’s even more important that we don't lose sight of the importance of our commitment to ending child poverty. We've successfully lifted over half a million children out of poverty and put in place plans which will raise a further half a million above the poverty line, but this bill will drive progress both nationally and locally by embedding our commitment into the work of the whole public sector."

Central to the Bill is a new duty on Government, every local authority and delivery partners, including Jobcentre Plus, the police, NHS primary Care Trusts and youth offending agencies to work together to end child poverty by supporting families and opportunities for future generations.

The Bill clearly defines the path to success and establishes a clear framework of accountability to ensure all of those involved in eradicating child poverty are driving progress forward.

Alongside the Bill, the Government is today publishing a report from the Take Up Taskforce, providing local authorities and partners with examples of actions they can take now to tackle child poverty by maximising families’ incomes.

Further information:

In the 2008 Budget, the Government announced a series of pilots to enable to look at ways in which children’s services, Local Authorities and Government agencies could work together to better support families develop innovative approaches to local poverty issues.

Today, the Government is also announcing the pilot areas that were selected for an innovative scheme which gives local authorities the opportunity to draw up individual plans to tackle local child poverty issues and the areas to benefit from targeted accommodation support for teenage parents.

‘Take Up the Challenge’, the report from the Take Up Taskforce outlines how local services can help poor families to take up their financial entitlements, illustrated by examples of local approaches that are having a real impact. Increasing the take up of benefits and tax credits is an important part of the Government’s strategy, and is particularly important to help vulnerable families through a time of economic uncertainty. This report will help local authorities and partners meet the requirements of the Bill.

In summary the UK-wide Bill will:

Notes for editors

This press notice relates to 'England'

1. Details on the child poverty Bill and the Take Up Taskforce’s report can be found at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/ecm/childpoverty and at: http://www.parliament.uk/

2. The Take Up Taskforce was announced in the Pre Budget Report and set up as an expert working group to develop ways to support local services, particularly local authorities, to help parents to access the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled, to contribute to reducing child poverty.

3. The Taskforce was chaired by Sir Trevor Chinn and its members included experts from local authorities, third sector organisations and Government departments.

4. The Taskforce Report sets out actions that local authorities and partners can take to help parents to access their financial entitlements. It has a strong focus on integrating take up work into mainstream processes, working in partnership, and the role that practitioners in a range of professions can play to help parents to access tax credits and benefits in order to escape poverty. A cross-Government action plan has been developed to take forward the Taskforces’ recommendations for Government including producing materials to support local services to take the action in the report. These will be available later in the year.

5. There are currently 42 Local Authorities running pilots.

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