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Child Poverty Bill

Part of Bill Presented — Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 20th July 2009.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 4:37 pm, 20th July 2009

The hon. Gentleman is right in that it is indeed a radical thing for us to set Secretaries of State a duty to meet targets to cut child poverty and to abolish it by 2020, as set out in the Bill. We considered long and hard how best to embody the targets and the duty in the legislation because we think that ending child poverty is serious and will have an impact throughout the country.

Concerns about fuel poverty are reflected in the assessment of material deprivation, so we take the issue very seriously. The hon. Gentleman will realise that, for example, there are families who are concerned about being able to pay their fuel bills this winter, which has an impact on their children. We have taken an overarching approach to child poverty which looks at a series of separate targets because this is about opportunities for every child for many generations to come.

We believe that every child should get a fair start in life, and every child should have the chance to get on, to develop their potential and to chase their dreams. We believe in equality of opportunity for children as they grow, but we can make those opportunities real only if we also tackle the poverty and inequality that holds children back today. We know that children from low-income families do less well at school. We know that children on free school meals are only half as likely as the rest of their class mates to get five good GCSEs. We know that being left behind can be about missing out on educational school trips or music lessons, or not being able to get on the internet at home to research homework. It can mean cases such as those in the Barnardo's report out today of the 14-year-old boy Jelani who got nothing at all for his birthday-except for £10 from a friend that he gave to his mother to help towards the cost of his school uniform. Children get left behind for years to come if their family get left behind today.

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