Child Poverty Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 22nd October 2009.

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Charlotte Pickles: I would echo what has been said. Obviously we need to look at the income levels and whether they are sufficient. In our report we chose not  to look at that specifically. I would certainly support that. Just to pick up on Edna’s comments, our raison d’ĂŞtre at the CSJ is to look at the causes of poverty and it is vital that we do not solely look at income as the issue around child poverty. For example, we know that 1 million children live with alcohol-addicted parents and a further 350,000 children have drug-addicted parents. Giving more money to either of those categories is not going to bring that child out of poverty. In addition we know that it will take a great deal more than simply focusing on increasing benefits to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.

Our fear about the Bill is that because it has these specific income or material deprivation-related targets and very little else it will skew the policy process towards increasing benefits. We know that increasing benefit dependency does not break the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Indeed a child who grows up in a benefit-dependent household is much more likely to be benefit dependent in their adulthood and so will their children be and so it will carry on. It is important that we look at much wider things such as family circumstances, emotional and psychological poverty, relational poverty and poverty of aspirations.

A study done in Canada showed that even if you eliminated child poverty, you would see only a 10 per cent. reduction in the behavioural and academic difficulties of the children involved in the study. If you cannot get that right, then those children will grow up and most likely live in poverty and have dysfunctional family units when they are older.