NCB advocates cash incentives for families to improve child health

Gabriella Jozwiak
Friday, February 15, 2013

The government should hand out cash incentives to encourage families in poverty to improve their children's health, the National Children's Bureau (NCB) has claimed.

The report says more must be done to help poor mothers into work. Image: Charlie Pinder
The report says more must be done to help poor mothers into work. Image: Charlie Pinder

According to a report by the charity, schemes that offer families financial rewards for engaging in activities that promote child health and wellbeing can significantly contribute to tackling child poverty.

The report, which urges the UK government to adopt anti-poverty policies from countries including Denmark and the US, says cash incentive schemes in New York have increased the use of health services and regular school attendance among deprived families.

Other schemes that have been successful abroad include greater childcare subsidies for working mothers and the introduction of neighbourhood anti-poverty zones.

Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at NCB, said the government could learn important lessons from the experience of other countries, to help it meet its 2020 target to eradicate child poverty.

“What particularly stands out in the UK in relation to countries with higher maternal employment rates such as Denmark, is that the UK spends more on cash benefits, particularly via the tax credit systems, but currently less on services such as childcare,” said Solomon.

Solomon argued that increasing the proportion of childcare costs covered by Universal Credit from 70 to 80 to per cent would be one way to address the problem.

He also suggested the government could increase its free childcare entitlement, to boost maternal employment rates. In Denmark, 84 per cent of mothers with children under the age of 16 are in work compared to 67 per cent in the UK.

The report also recommends a cross-departmental government approach to tackling poverty. It cites an example from the US state of Connecticut, where officials set up a child poverty and prevention council, bringing together disparate state agencies.

“There needs to be a central focus of ministers coming together to create a clear plan where individual departments can be held to account for their contribution,” Solomon said.

“It may not happen in this government, but as the impact of the financial cuts deepens, I think there’s going to be greater recognition of the need for this in the future.”

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