Tuesday, 14 June 2011

More thoughts on Child Poverty

Some more thoughts about child poverty have been rattling around in my head since last weeks excellent showing of a BBC documentary (Poor Kids) on child poverty here in Britain. Child poverty is one the most worrying issues affecting many families in Britain today, and looks set to rise in the future with cuts to programs like Sure Start being implemented up and down the country.

Severe poverty is defined currently by the Government as a household in receipt of half the average national income, for example, for a family of four this would be pay of less than £12,500. This income figure is also combined with what is referred to as "material deprivation". Examples of Materiel Deprivation include children who are unable to take a holiday or invite friends home for tea and where adults were not able to pay for repairs to essential items such as fridges or afford insurance.

The ‘New Labour’ government in 1999 pledged to end Child Poverty in the UK, and as a result over the following years an estimated 550,000 families were lifted allegedly out of poverty by a series of government funded strategies which included Sure Start. I personally always doubted these claims, and it also fetches into question what use was the minimum wage in bringing about both the eradication of poverty and low pay?”

In the 2010 Election both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats pledged to continue to fight Child Poverty in their election campaigns - as if for one moment that anyone could believe such lies.

The UK has one of the highest rates of Child Poverty in industrialised Europe, what some readers may find surprising however is that 59% of affected families have at least one parent who works, and 57% of affected families consist of a household with two parents.

Again this brings into question that minimum wage - it was never a doubt in my mind that the minimum wage was an economic instrument to blunt the effectiveness of trade unions whilst New Labour and Tony Blair were able to dance about on the international stage, like peacock's vainly displaying and fanning their tails.

Supporters of the minimum wage say that it increases the standard of living for workers and reduces poverty - well from this October the minimum wage is set to increase by 15p an hour; and the rates for 16- to 17 year  oldie's will increase by wait for it - 4p to bring their re-numeration up to £3.68 an hour and the rate for apprentices will increase by a massive 10p to £2.60 an hour.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has said:

“More than 890,000 of Britain’s lowest-paid workers will gain from these changes. They are appropriate, reflecting the current economic uncertainty, while at the same time protecting the UK's lowest-paid workers. "I would like to thank the Low Pay Commission for doing a good job in difficult circumstances."

Long gone is the myth that Child Poverty affects only those on benefits or single parents. Government data shows this is an issue that is not limited to those on benefit or incapacity allowance but is a serious problem for lots of hard working families around the UK.

It's become all to acceptable in today's society to "blame" people who are out of work or are unable to work because they are genuinely sick or disabled . The £18bn cut in central government funding on benefits, tax credits and assistance to families is however going to see an increase in Child Poverty over the next five years. 

Fighting poverty is made all the more difficult when we are told constantly by the media how benefit cheats and scroungers are ruining the country. This is simply not true, and its not made any better when the leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband sets about the unemployed as he did yesterday; for reading the Sun or Daily Mail won’t save his sinking ship.  

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