Azara Blog: UK government likely to miss its child poverty target

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Date published: 2006/07/06

The BBC says:

The government may miss its child poverty target unless it changes its approach to boosting the incomes of the poor, a charity has said.

Targeted benefits and tax credits have helped to lift 700,000 children out of poverty since 1999.

But for these tactics to eliminate child poverty by 2020, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said it would cost taxpayers an extra £28bn a year.

A more wide-ranging approach to poverty relief was needed, it said.

Since 1999 the number of children living in poverty has fallen by 700,000 due to rising parental employment and the introduction of tax credits.

The JRF said there now needed to be a greater redistribution of wealth to benefit poorer families combined with policies to help parents into work.

Just using tax credits and benefits to alleviate child poverty would become very expensive over the next few years, the report added.

Continuing to follow such a policy would add £28bn to annual government expenditure between 2010 and 2020, an "unlikely scenario" the JRF said.

In 1999 the government said it wanted to gradually eliminate child poverty.

It set itself the goals of reducing child poverty by a quarter by 2005, half by 2010 and altogether by 2020.

Unfortunately something that will never be eliminated is the child poverty lobby. One of the problems is that child poverty is defined by the government to be relative, not absolute. So a child is (allegedly) in poverty if the household has an income less than 60% of median household income. So the main way to eliminate poverty is to make income distribution as narrow as possible. While this might be a wonderfully socialist goal, it is not very credible and has little to do with real poverty. And the claim in the article that the JRF is calling for "a greater redistribution of wealth" must be misstated, since wealth is not income. You could give every poor household a Rolls Royce and it would not change their income at all.

(Actually, there is a way for households with children to have more than 60% median household income even while keeping a wide income distribution, and that is by forcing households without children to hand over much, much more of their income to households with children than they are handing over already. To a large extent this has been the government plan, but there is a limit to this strategy. At some point households without children would just get up and leave the country. They are the responsible ones, because they have not bred, but they are being forced to subsidise ever more the irresponsible ones, who have bred.)

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