Reducing child poverty is a vital part of improving the lives of some of the most disadvantaged children in society. Ensuring that families have resources to meet their needs will help to both provide all children with a good start in life and bolster their future life chances.
The last government’s approach was based around a headline measure that defined child poverty as living in a household with less than 60% of median equivalised household income.1 A combination of significant redistribution through the benefits and tax credits system and increased requirements and support to help families move at least one earner into work, meant that progress was made against this measure of relative income poverty. Today, 17.5% of all children live in households below the relative income poverty threshold, compared to over 25% in 1999.
Despite this progress we are still some 7.5 percentage points away from hitting the 2020 target. The costs of redistributing incomes towards families living in relative income poverty to meet this target are prohibitive.
However, this is not just a matter of finances. Even if the money were available to meet the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act, it is our belief that this would be an ineffective way of tackling the issue and would not deliver the outcomes that we all desire for children across all parts of society. In short, as well as the current targets being unrealistic, the way in which we measure child poverty is ineffective.