Measures to track levels of child poverty should be based on life chances rather than finances, Labour MP Frank Field has said.
Child poverty targets are expected to be missed. Image: Arlen Connelly
Speaking at a Policy Exchange conference on child poverty targets today (30 April), Field said the current system is failing.
He said life chances indicators, outlined in his 2010 government review of poverty, would be a better way of measuring the impact of policy through monitoring how well developed children are.
The indicators cover three areas: child-based factors; parent-based factors; and environment-based factors, such as the quality of childcare.
Field said: “The Labour government’s ambition to abolish child poverty was a laudable aim.
“However, it is clear that the policy they employed – of income transfers on a massive scale – did not work. Nor are they sustainable.
“To meet the 2020 target would require £19bn in income transfers [based on 2007 child poverty figures].
“An anomaly of an economic recession is that the poverty figures can appear to improve, as median income falls, however, the jury is no longer 'out' on the value of the current measures.
“The measures as they stand promote a single policy of pushing household income above an arbitrary line, with no regard to whether it matters where on the income spectrum households sit.
“The life chances indicators could measure the progress the country is making against the only strategy we can employ to eradicate poverty in Britain – by radically up-skilling the workforce.”
The event was organised in advance of the results of the 2010 child poverty targets. The 2010 target states that the number of children living in poverty should have been reduced to 1.7 million, however, it is expected that results will show that this figure was not reached.
Neera Sharma, Barnardo’s assistant director of policy and research, said: "We need action not rhetoric if we are to tackle the scandal of child poverty in this country, both to improve the income and the access to services that the poorest families have.
"Barnardo’s knows that intervention early on in a child's life increases their life chances, however this must not be at the expense of services for young people later on in life, many of whom are currently out of work and in desperate need of support."
Rhian Beynon, head of policy and campaigns at Family Action, said: “Frank Field is right that early intervention services matter but cash also counts for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families.
"The Family Action experience is that most disadvantaged families need support with a range of aspects of parenting including health and home learning if children’s life chances are to improve.
"However one essential aspect of parenting is providing a home and adequate income.
"While we agree work is important it will not enable all parents to provide a home and acceptable standard of living for their children particularly at a time of unemployment and recession.
"With half of all poor children living in families where someone is working Government needs to protect family incomes and safeguard children’s futures.”
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