11/02/2004

Child poverty group calls for plans to revise figures to be dropped

A children's campaign group has claimed that the government is planning to introduce an accounting method which could see up to one million children in poverty wiped off official statistics.

The group, End Child Poverty, issued its call as Secretary of State Andrew Smith appears before a Commons Work and Pensions select committee today.

The organisation called on the minister to ditch plans to ignore housing costs when his department publishes top line figures for child poverty after 2005. Latest figures indicate that 3.8 million (1-in-3) children are living in poverty in Britain, but the number drops to 2.7 million if housing costs are ignored, it claimed.

Plans to use before housing costs figures will "apparently make it easier" for the government to hit its target to halve child poverty by 2010 and end it by 2020, the group said.

Plans to ignore housing costs will be most dramatic in London. Ignoring housing costs would, on paper, reduce the number of children at risk of poverty in inner London from nearly half (48%) to less than one third (30%), End Child Poverty said.

End Child Poverty director Jonathan Stearn said: "The government has made an historic and admirable commitment to end child poverty within a generation. But it needs to meet that commitment by truly removing children from poverty not just removing them from the statistics.

"To avoid any suggestion that the government is moving the goalposts the secretary of state should today commit to including housing costs in all top line figures on child poverty both now and in the future."

The government is developing more detailed measure of child poverty but claims it is making the change to before housing costs to bring UK figures in line with Europe. But housing costs tend to be higher in the UK and ignoring the high cost of housing will also ignore a major cause of child poverty, he said.

The End Child Poverty campaign has over 75 member organisations representing many thousands of individual supporters across a wide range of sectors.

(gmcg)

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