Come clean on child poverty failure, Alan Milburn tells Government

Adviser urges Cameron to act as cuts push more children below legally binding threshold

The Government's adviser on social mobility has urged ministers to admit they will miss a legally binding target to cut child poverty because of spending cuts and the flatlining economy.

Alan Milburn warned that the Coalition's austerity measures would deepen child poverty rather than reduce it to meet the goals set by the previous Labour Government. The Coalition has signed up to Labour's target to cut the proportion of children living in absolute and relative poverty to 5 and 10 per cent respectively.

The former Labour Health Secretary, now the independent reviewer of social mobility and child poverty, said: "No one believes it will be met. It is up to the Government to come clean on this, put its hands up and say it is not going to happen."

Mr Milburn echoed forecasts by the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank that the number of children in absolute poverty will rise by 500,000 to three million in 2015 and that 3.3 million children– almost one in four – will be in relative poverty by 2020. He said: "A combination of the sluggish economy and public spending cuts will take their toll. At a time of austerity there is a risk of a negative social impact."

He urged David Cameron to take personal charge of the Government's drive to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged. He said Mr Cameron, despite his privileged background, could fight back after last week's poor local election results by championing social mobility.

"People who have been fortunate in their lives, if they have an opportunity to exercise power, one of their core purposes should be to try to make sure that others get the same benefits they enjoyed," said Mr Milburn. "It would be good for the Prime Minister to stamp his mark on this agenda. The difficulties the Government has encountered in recent weeks – in particular being seen as out of touch – provides an incentive, both politically and ethically."

So far, Nick Clegg has led the Government's drive on social mobility. But Mr Milburn warned too many Cabinet cooks have fingers in the same pie, including Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander. "The Government's intentions are good. But I think there is a danger of trying to do too much and ending up achieving too little."

The former Cabinet minister said the Coalition should consider further cuts in child benefit for better-off families so state money could be switched to affordable, universal child care – one of the best ways to improve social mobility and cut child poverty.

Although Britain spends more than the OECD countries' average on families, a higher proportion goes on cash payments like child benefit, while Scandinavian nations devote more money to service provision like child care and enjoy better mobility and poverty figures.

Mr Miliband backs the Coalition's £2.5bn "pupil premium" for schools but will investigate if all the money is reaching disadvantaged children as intended. He suggested Mr Gove is reluctant for his department to monitor every school.

His next report will be on the "who you know culture" in the professions, which he believes is a huge barrier to social mobility. He has been looking at the law, medicine and media. "There is still as very long way to go. My overall sense is that progress is very patchy," he said.

How poor is poor?: 'child poverty'

A child is defined as being in "relative poverty" if he or she lives in a household whose income is below 60 per cent of the average in that year.

They are in "absolute poverty" if they live in a household whose real-terms income is below 60 per cent of the 2010-11 average – the benchmark set in the Child Poverty Act passed by Labour in 2010.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, the proportion of children living in absolute and relative child poverty in 2020-21 is forecast to be 23 and 24 per cent respectively, compared to targets of less than 5 and 10 per cent set out in the Act.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all