Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Child Poverty figures

The government it seems is not even close to meeting its pledge to halve child poverty by 2010.

The pledge was made back in 1999 and according to a study by MPs its likely to be missed by close to one million. Mind you if the figures included housing costs when looking at family incomes the miss would be greater - around 1.6 million (and surely when we are talking about poverty, housing costs are significant).

The MPs report is published by the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

When I worked at Save the Children and NCH I was very involved in issues around child poverty. I did a lot of interviewing of parents and children and helped with PR work to highlight the issues. I never failed to go away deeply upset at how the families were struggling to cope, and angry that the system seemed to have them trapped. In many cases a relatively small amount of material help would have made a huge difference.

But alongside that material poverty there was often another sort which to my mind is just as bad because of the way it limits people. That's poverty of ambition or aspiration. And you'd often find it ran through "leadership" figures in communities like teachers, doctors, ministers. I think one of the cruellest things you can do to a child is to tell it - whether directly or indirectly - that people from their area don't go on and succeed, that people from their area should restrict their ambitions to certain sorts of jobs. It's a self fulfilling prophesy.

We need to tackle the material poverty. But equally we need to tackle the poverty of ambition too. I suspect dealing with the second problem is harder.. but will pay more dividends in the end

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