Future still bleak for children in poverty

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The Independent Online

The outlook for Britain's poorest children improved only marginally during Labour's first term in office despite the party's crusade to end child poverty, a report reveals today.

The outlook for Britain's poorest children improved only marginally during Labour's first term in office despite the party's crusade to end child poverty, a report reveals today.

The study casts doubt on the Government's claim to have lifted 1.2 million children out of poverty by the time of this year's general election.

But researchers from the New Policy Institute say that fewer children are leaving school without basic qualifications and youth unemployment has declined.

About four million children, or nearly one in three, were officially living in poverty at the end of the 1990s, according to the report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The number of children in poor households fell by 300,000 during Labour's first three years in power. And to justify Labour's election claim, a further reduction of 900,000 would have to be apparent when income figures for 2000-01 were released next year.

Guy Palmer, co-author of the report, said it was questionable whether the Government's targets to halve child poverty in 10 years, and eradicate it by 2020, would be met.

"They need to be making much, much quicker progress than they made in the first three years to reach either their target for the first term or to halve child poverty in 10 years."

The report accepts that the national minimum wage, the working families' tax credit and higher levels of child benefits, which would all help, were not introduced until 1999. But it says the number of adults living in households with less than 60 per cent of the median income, the officially recognised poverty line, had so far shown little change.

In April 2000, a total of 13.3 million people were in poverty compared with 13.4 million the year before.

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