Britain’s child poverty disgrace

Official figures published today show that a quarter of children in London are from jobless households, adding fuel to criticism of the government’s attempts to end child poverty.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) stated that, while the national average for children living in households where nobody works is 15 per cent, this was seen to markedly rise to 23 per cent in London and, to a lesser degree, in north-east and north-west England, West Midlands and Wales, which averaged 18 per cent.

Commenting on the findings, a spokesman for the ONS said: “Although there are differences between regions, the data suggests that the most significant influence on children’s experiences growing up is likely to be income deprivation.

“Growing up in a low-income family in one region will probably be more like growing up in one in similar circumstances in another region than in a more affluent family in the same region.”

Tim Nichols of the Child Poverty Action Group called for better flexible working rights for parents and for London employers to pay a “fair living wage” as steps towards keeping parents in decent-paid jobs.

“Londoners face harder challenges accessing jobs than in most parts of Britain, especially if they are parents. There is a higher concentration of lone parents in central London because it is often only couples who can afford to buy a home in the suburbs.

“Child care, living costs and housing costs are all higher, which means Londoners find it harder to be better off in work. We need far more employers paying a fair living wage for London.”

Mr Nichols added: “We need to look at why so many parents who start in work find it impossible to stay in their job. Parents need more understanding from employers, especially when there are problems with a childcare place, or a child is sick and off school.

“Too many parents lose their job when these problems lead to a clash between working and looking after their child. Until we get on top of these problems, child poverty in the capital will remain high.”

But the Department of Work and Pensions defended its record on the issue of child poverty.

A spokeswoman said: “We’ve just introduced the Child Poverty Bill that will ensure that our commitment to end child poverty by 2020 is no longer just a policy commitment but a legal duty for this government and future governments.

“The Bill will place a duty on responsible local authorities and relevant partners to co-operate to reduce child poverty in their area and mitigate the effects of poverty on children.

“We have lifted 500,000 children out of poverty since 1997 and investments made since the 2007 Budget are expected to lift a further 500,000 children out of poverty.”

But Left Economics Advisory Panel co-ordinator Andrew Fisher said that much more needed to be done.

“New Labour has failed to tackle child poverty because it has refused to address inequality and the distribution of wealth,” he said.

“Child poverty has risen over the last three years and is still higher than it was in the mid-1980s. Today, 3.9 million children remain in poverty.”

Paddy McGuffin