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Monday, 18 August 2014

Lib Dems announce new child poverty measures

The Liberal Democrats have today said they will include a commitment to introduce new child poverty measures in the party’s manifesto, as part of their ongoing commitment to a "fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life". In the manifesto they say they will introduce the three child poverty targets which were blocked by George Osborne and Conservative coalition partners in this parliament: reducing relative poverty, reducing gaps in life chances, and reducing entrenched poverty. The Lib Dems say that the current set of child poverty measures has serious limitations. They point out that:

  • In times of recession the number of children in poverty can go down even though the children are no better off, as we saw in 2010/11, and in times of growth the number can go up.
  • They fail to separate out the smaller number of families that have greater need of government support from those dipping into poverty temporarily and that have the skills and attributes to get themselves out.
  • They fail to incentivise or reward government action to tackle the root causes of child poverty. Instead they incentivise governments to use income transfers to tip families over an arbitrary line without actually changing their lives.
  • They do not hold Government to account for ending the intergenerational cycle of poverty where poor children all too often go on to become poor adults.

Chair of the Liberal Democrat manifesto group, and Education Minister, David Laws said: "Liberal Democrats know you can build a stronger economy and fairer society at the same time, and will not let political dogma, or headline chasing, damage someone’s opportunity to get on in life."

Commenting on Labour's approach and the Lib Dem alternative to it, Mr Laws said: "Labour’s ‘poverty plus a pound’ strategy made a statistical impact but it left people’s circumstances and future prospects largely unchanged. Our changes will change the focus in order to lift young people out of poverty for good by generating real opportunity. Rather than spending billions of borrowed pounds on welfare payments designed to move someone from just below, to just above, the official poverty line, we intend to invest in education and skills so people can be work their way out of poverty and towards a future of self-reliance and success."

Turning to the Conservatives Mr Laws commented: "The Conservatives have been keen to point up the failings of Labour’s child poverty measures but less keen to replace them with decent, effective and supportive measures. Their desire to shrink the state by continuing to cut spending long after the deficit has been cleared trumped their rhetorical commitment to expanding opportunity for young people. Clearly a political dividing line on fiscal policy matters more to them than the effort to reduce poverty and expand life chances."