Schedule 1 — The Child Poverty Commission

Part of Bill Presented — Fiscal Responsibility – in the House of Commons at 6:14 pm on 9th December 2009.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) 6:14 pm, 9th December 2009

I would like to make a little more progress.

The Bill will sustain and increase the momentum towards eradicating child poverty, create a clear definition of success, put in place a framework for accountability, and improve partnership-working and collaboration to tackle child poverty at the local level. I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contributions to the debates as the Bill made progress. It has been encouraging that it has received a warm welcome from colleagues.

I want to respond briefly to some of the points that were raised and on which hon. Members asked for the Government's view. Mr. Gauke asked about the position of local authorities in respect of relative income. The objective is not to have separate relative income targets for each local authority area. There was some confusion about that in Committee, and I hope we have cleared it up. The hon. Gentleman also suggested that local authorities do not have any impact on relative income standards in their areas. We believe that they do have the ability to influence families' incomes, and, indeed, play a pivotal role in tackling the causes of relative low income. Also, local authorities will soon have the means to assess local progress in tackling low income, and it is entirely reasonable to expect that to be taken into account in the preparation of their needs assessments.

Local authorities have a number of levers at their disposal to help increase family income. In the short term, they can administer financial help for families on low incomes with measures such as housing and council tax benefit, encouraging families to take up financial support, and joining up national and local partners to provide personalised skills and employment support. Local authorities can also reduce low income in the future by driving economic regeneration and neighbourhood renewal, and by providing high-quality education and early years services.

Aside from its positive reception, the Bill has been a credit to the House. Hon. Members have spoken passionately and been extremely well informed on this crucial topic. The focus that the Government have placed on child poverty has ensured that both the moral and economic case for tackling it is indisputable. They have much to be proud of in their record on child poverty. Our efforts and successes in tackling poverty and deprivation across the country have shown that with the political will those problems can be addressed. However, we need to do more to tackle the root causes and consequences of poverty, so that all children have a good start in life, enjoying a fulfilling childhood and having the capabilities and opportunities to flourish. Our vision is of a fairer society: one in which no child is left behind and every child has the opportunity to flourish.

I have very much enjoyed the debate on this important Bill, not only today, but throughout its Committee stage. Delivering this legislation will take us closer to our goal of eradicating child poverty in this generation. This Bill will help to focus efforts across government, local authorities and other partners to improve the lives of children and young people, and I commend it to the House.

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