Breakfast today or life chances tomorrow? Why not both?

Posted by Kate Mulley / Thursday 08 October 2015 / Cost of living
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Think about what poverty looks like for a child today. What do you see? Not enough food on the table? A cold home too crowded to do homework? Clothes that don’t fit or aren’t warm enough? Few treats and rare school trips? It’s all about whether there’s enough money coming in.

When we think how we can reduce child poverty tomorrow, income is not the only factor. Helping children in their earliest years has a positive effect for the rest of their lives. We want to make sure they are healthy, have good social skills, can cope with setbacks and are able to learn. These children are more likely to do better at school, have stronger relationships, stay healthy and have a career in later in life.

When it comes to boosting children’s ‘life chances’, the Government’s latest proposals are not entirely off-base. The Welfare Reform and Work Bill proposes measuring things that indicate how likely a child is to experience poverty as an adult.

Measuring ‘life chances’ is no bad thing. But the Bill as it stands will not achieve the Government’s manifesto commitment to ‘eliminate child poverty and introduce better measures to drive real change in children’s lives‘.

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Action for Children is calling for:

  • Enough money today – improving children’s future chances is a great ambition, but it won’t make sure they have a decent breakfast or shoes for school. It must be possible to meet children’s immediate needs, whether through sufficient wages, tax credits or benefits. Tracking household incomes should be a critical part of tracking poverty, since two thirds of children living in poverty are from working households.
  • Better life chances from birth – the Bill currently measures how children do at school at 16 and how many live in workless households. Yet we know that the earliest years are a crucial developmental period. By waiting until 16 to measure progress, it misses that golden opportunity to make a difference and close the growing gap in children’s life chances.

Action for Children is talking to politicians from across the House of Commons to improve the Bill. We are also working as part of the End Child Poverty coalition, with housing organisations like Crisis and others, to make sure that vulnerable children and young people are helped not hindered by the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

If you want to be part of our campaigning on the Bill in the run up to Christmas, please sign up today. You’ll receive alerts about our campaigns to support children and young people, and more on the Bill at it progresses through Parliament.

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