Legally binding child poverty targets to be scrapped, Iain Duncan Smith says

The DWP minister made the announcement ahead of his planned £12bn welfare cuts

Jon Stone
Wednesday 01 July 2015 16:03 BST
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary

The Government is to repeal its legally binding child poverty targets, Iain Duncan Smith has announced.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the law was driving government policy to reduce child poverty on an “unsustainable” path.

“How we measure things matters because it influences what governments focus on and what we target,” he said.

The announcement comes as Mr Duncan Smith prepares to make £12bn welfare cuts that the Government’s own child poverty advisors have said are highly likely to raise child poverty.

“The best interests of children were not central to the development of these policies and children's views were not sought,” the UK Children’s Commissioners’ report, handed to the United Nations said.

“Reductions to household income for poorer children as a result of tax, transfer and social security benefit changes have led to food and fuel poverty, and the sharply increased use of crisis food bank provision by families.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary said he had opposed the relative income poverty target for over a decade.

“I believe that the best route out of poverty is work – it provides purpose, responsibility, and role models for our children,” he said.

“I am announcing that we will bring forward legislation to remove the measures and targets in the Child poverty Act, as well as the other duties and provision.”

In 2006, however, David Cameron said in his Scarman Lecture that “poverty is relative - and those who pretend otherwise are wrong”.

The Government will replace the existing legally binding measure of child poverty with a duty to report on the number of children in households achieving GCSEs and the level of worklessness. There will be no legal obligation to hit these targets, however.

The Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission would also be renamed the Social Mobility Commission, the minister said.

Labour, who brought in the targets when they were last in government, accused the Government of changing the definition of targets to suit them.

“What he’s read out today is the obituary notice for compassionate conservatism. It’s the death-knell for any idea that his party might one day be the party for working people,” said Stephen Timms, shadow DWP minister.

“It’s news that progress on child poverty has stalled with most poor children living in working households. Their manifesto said they would work to eliminate child poverty – instead their solution is to change the definition.”

The announcement comes hours after the Press Association news agency revealed that Mr Duncan Smith had had his expenses credit card suspended for running up a £1,000 debt to taxpayers.

Child poverty was flat in figures released by the DWP last week.

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