Tag Archives: child poverty

Tackling the scourge of holiday hunger

As we near the end of the school holidays, I have been thinking a lot this summer about holiday hunger – an estimated three million children in the United Kingdom are at risk of going hungry during the school holidays.

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Helping parents with the cost of school uniforms is a great campaign

For an example of the real difference Liberal Democrats in government can make to peoples lives, look no further than the announcement by Kirsty Williams of new guidance on school uniforms in Wales.

There’s no doubt that the cost of school uniforms can be a real issue for poor families and the tendency of some schools to make arbitrary decisions which put up the cost are an example of how arbitrary decisions by the state can adversely affect people lives.

The Children’s Society have issued several reports on this, highlighting the high costs caused by schools which have over complicated uniforms …

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Ending relative poverty in the UK is easy

Recently I have seen a couple of comments on LDV which state that ending relative poverty in the UK would be a difficult and complex thing to achieve. They are mistaken.

The reason someone is living in relative poverty is because they don’t have enough money. The answer, therefore, is to ensure that benefit levels give them enough to pay all of their housing costs and have enough left over to be on the poverty line and not below it. As Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in his report points out “employment alone is insufficient” to lift someone out of poverty.

Already we have a system which reduces benefits by 63p for every pound earned, but 4 million workers live in poverty. This is because the gain from working is not enough to lift the person out of poverty. If they were already out of poverty when living only on benefits then no one working could be living in poverty.

We need to ensure that those living on benefits have enough money to pay all of their housing costs. Scrapping the benefit cap helps, as would increasing Local Housing Allowance in line with local rents (both party policy). However, they don’t go far enough. Local Housing Allowance was introduced by the Labour government in 2008. It sets maximums for housing benefit depending on local rents, and sets out what type of accommodation different types of families can have.

It is not liberal for the state to tell people how many rooms they can have to live in. It is not liberal for the state to force tenants into debt arrears. It is not liberal for the state to force someone to move house when they experience difficult times such as when they become unemployed.

It is liberal for the state to pay 100% of the housing costs of those on benefit. Therefore we should have as our long-term aim scrapping the LHA and in the meantime increase its value above the bottom 30% of local rents. (I expect this is the main reason that 1.9 million pensioners are living in poverty). The least we should do is reduce the single person age down to 25 from 35, so a single person aged between 25 and 34 should no longer be forced to live in shared accommodation.

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Reject! Reject! Reject! We Demand Better

There is a lot of anger about in British politics today. But I believe we Liberal Democrats are not angry enough.

We write a whole pamphlet on Demanding Better, and pass an entire motion on what we want to Demand Better.

But we don’t condemn. We don’t say what we believe is rotten in the practice of government in Britain and the way it has allowed the decline in the state of our nation.

We won’t convince people about what we want until we say what we reject.

So what do we fiercely reject? These are what rouses most anger in me.

  1. The leaders of both main parties allowing the threat of leaving the EU to go on for nearly three years, and still choosing to risk a no-deal Brexit rather than unambiguously giving the people the final say in a People’s Vote.
  2. That so many top elected politicians appear to scheme for their own and their kind’s advancement instead of putting the needs of the country first.
  3. That the Government squanders the country’s resources on preparing for Brexit while ignoring the wish of ordinary people for secure lives without fear for the future, as well as the despair of industrialists facing continued uncertainty.
  4. The attitude of the Conservative Government in letting the weakest in society go to the wall. So ordering everybody regardless of circumstances to take any job they can find and look after themselves, and refusing adequate welfare benefits to those who struggle.
  5. The lack of response by this Government to the evidence of there being four million children now living in poverty here, and of the increasing necessity for poor families to use food banks, a disgrace in this rich country.
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Book Review: The End of Aspiration? by Duncan Exley

Subtitled Social mobility and our children’s fading prospects, Duncan Exley’s book explores the facts and myths around aspiration. Referencing many studies, linked with real-life stories of people who have moved from rag-to-riches, Exley asks how far the UK is from being an ‘opportunity’ society and whether social mobility should be a priority of policy-makers.

Duncan Exley is the former Director of the Equality Trust. In his book, he delves into issues of equality and poverty, probing the real factors behind people not being able to attain the life they would like to live.

Recently, I toured a secondary school in North Devon with the headteacher. I asked her what the biggest issue was for the young people there. She told me, without hesitation, lack of aspiration. She explained that many of her pupils came from families which could not afford to travel outside of the town, not to mention the county. Pupils stayed in school as long as they were required to and then left for local jobs. She had started taking groups of pupils to Oxford open days and was proud that several now were at Oxford and other universities. But she said one of the hurdles she faced was lack of funding for school trips so that young people could experience the bigger world outside of their own community.

This is one of the many themes Exley tackles – how to give young people from more deprived circumstances the opportunities to explore, experience and participate in the bigger world.

Creating opportunities, however, is not enough. Exley looks at the biology of poverty and cites studies which link the nutrition of grandparents to the birth weight and health of babies. Low birth weight has been linked to poorer attainment. A healthy population is one which can thrive, and child poverty must be tackled. Exley notes the effect of health on career progression:

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Hungry children are suffering, here in the UK

I’ve been doing a bit of work in my constituency about the effects of Universal Credit on local people, the rising use of Food Banks, and the inadequate funding given to rural schools in North Devon.

With that perspective, I was dismayed but not surprised to read a recent article highlighting the social exclusion experienced by children living in poverty.

This is personal for me – I grew up in a military household, having enough to live on but not a lot, and when my father left the forces, we were poor for a couple of years until he retrained and got another job. For those years, I felt excluded. I wore hand-me-downs and home-made clothes. I didn’t fit in as we had moved into a rural community from outside the country. My accent was funny, my safety net of having friends from military families on base was gone, and I was bullied. Things settled down, but I will never forget that first year of leaving the ‘family’ of military life and entering civilian life as an 11-year-old child. But I was never hungry.

The new study by University College London, Living Hand to Mouth, published yesterday, looks at the impact hunger has on children’s lives. As readers will know, free school meals have been cut back by the Conservative Government. It is Lib Dem policy, however, to reinstate free school meals for all those on Universal Credit and, further, that all primary school children regardless of their income level should have a free school meal. Nutrition is ever so important for learning. A healthy child is one who can flourish and absorb knowledge. A hungry one can not.

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28 March 2019 – today’s press releases

My apologies for lateness this evening, as I’ve been distracted by the Opening Day of the 2019 baseball season. And, as my beloved Cincinnati Reds won, I’m in a good mood…

Tories have pushed 200,000 children into poverty

The number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has risen by 200,000 in a year, to a total of 3.7 million.

Responding to the government data release, Liberal Democrat DWP Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

This government should be absolutely ashamed of itself for presiding over the first increase in absolute child poverty in six years.

The main culprits – the benefits freeze, the arbitrary

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13 December 2018 – (not just) today’s press releases

You’d think that putting the day’s piece to bed after 11.30 p.m. should cover everything. But no, the Press Teams both in London and Cardiff had one last shot in the dying moments of yesterday, so I’m including them with today’s batch. Enjoy…

  • Theresa May Must Give the People the Final Say – Welsh Lib Dems
  • PM must now change course and offer people the final say
  • Soaring numbers of children trapped in temporary accommodation is shameful
  • Welsh Lib Dems Welcome Prostate Cancer MRI Scans
  • Govt must set out plans to avoid NHS winter crisis
  • Lib Dems demand MPs holidays are cancelled to vote on Brexit
  • Cable:

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Five bigger problems for young people than tuition fees

I don’t think anyone could deny that young people are getting a raw deal. But every time the conversation turns to young people, the go-to issue is tuition fees.

There are so many issues which have a much greater impact on young people than tuition fees, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

Here are 5 examples:

1. A lower minimum wage

The minimum wage of £7.83 per hour is far too low. But the rate is even lower for Under 25s. For 21-24 year olds it is £7.38, and for 18-20 year olds it is £5.90.

Maybe (at a push) you could justify a lower …

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Child poverty is a disgrace in a rich country

In 2010, Parliament set a target for the government to eradicate child poverty by 2020 in the Child Poverty Act. The big three parties at the time, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour all agreed that this was a worthwhile target and strived to achieve it. However since then, we have seen a majority Conservative government attempt to abolish this target, stopped only by the House of Lords, as well as seen child poverty trend upwards, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecasting that it will reach over 5 million children, or 37%, by 2021-22. The government set out a …

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How can we make sure families have enough to live on?

On the Six O’clock News on BBC1 on Thursday there was a report on children living in poverty.

Mark who is a single dad is not working so I suppose we should expect him and his children to be living in poverty. He lost £340 a month because of the benefit cap. It is our policy to abolish the benefit cap but that is not enough to remove Mark and his family out of poverty.

The report correctly states that those who work more than 15 hours are not subject to the benefit cap. Therefore the problem must be the level of benefits.

Corey is working being paid the minimum wage but he and his partner Danielle and their children are living in poverty.

The report states that Corey some months receives no Universal Credit because he can receive two lots of wages in a month. I assume he must be being paid every 4 weeks. On the government web site it states, “If you’re paid weekly, every 2 weeks or every 4 weeks, you’ll receive more than one set of wages during some assessment periods. This means your earnings might be too high for Universal Credit. You’ll be told if they are and whether you’ll need to reapply to continue to get Universal Credit”.

This is a madness. Surely Universal Credit should be paid on the assumption you receive the same amount of wages each week and then if you earn more for a particular week then the amount is adjusted downwards for that week which is being paid on the day of the month allocated to that claimant, but that you don’t end up with no benefit just because there are two pay days in one calendar month.

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Benefit Cuts Will Increase Child Poverty

A new report just released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that benefit cuts will increase child poverty, especially in the North East and in Wales.

Absolute child poverty would increase by 4%, and three-quarters of that would be linked to the freeze to most working-age benefits and limiting of tax credits and universal credits to two children. Using forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, combined with current benefit plans, the study shows child poverty will increase in each English region and nation of the UK.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Spokesman, Stephen Lloyd MP, says

These figures from

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Opinion: Be ambitious for London – end child poverty, improve child wellbeing

 

While you know London has a booming economy, and is a centre of job and wealth creation, the largest city of one of the world’s largest economies, you may be less aware of the issue of child poverty; it is also a city where significant numbers (over six hundred thousand children, around two fifths of the total) grow up in poverty.

As a political party we need to continue to become more well known for committing to improving children’s lives in our capital and I believe that by drawing attention to this issue we will improve life for all. The present situation has developed, persisted and augmented on the watch of successive London Mayors, whether Labour, Conservative or sometime independent. As a matter of strategic importance to London, there is no question that the issue is the responsibility of the Mayor.

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The Independent View: Save our safety net

Four children are left home alone for five days. Social services step in to move the kids out to live with their father. But there’s a problem: the council have found a flat for the newly formed family, but it is unfurnished. The dad lives on a low income and does not have the savings to buy five beds and mattresses, and all the other furniture that is needed. If the property isn’t adequately furnished, the children will have to be taken into care. (See case study here).

Situations like this exist up and down the country. In this case, the family were awarded a loan from the local welfare provision (LWP) scheme run by their local authority which allowed them to start again after this period of massive instability. But if they lived in a different part of the country their local provision might not have been as generous, or the local council simply may not have established a scheme at all. And with central government funding to councils for LWP currently under threat, support of this type is likely to be even more limited in the future.

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Inequality “narrows” due to Liberal Democrat policies

imageAn interesting report (£)  in the Sunday Times yesterday tells how official figures show that the gap between the richest and poorest is narrowing.

While most people have suffered a squeeze on incomes since Britain was plunged into recession six years ago — and only now is the economy getting back to pre-crisis levels — those on lower incomes have done relatively better than those at the top. Households Below Average Income, an official report published last week, showed income inequality, measured after taking into account housing costs, had fallen to

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Opinion: On child poverty targets, on which I agree with David Laws

“A fair, free and open society, in which… no one shall be enslaved by poverty.”

The fundamental basis of our party’s constitution – its very soul – is the elimination of poverty. We may disagree amongst us on how best to achieve this ambitious goal, but there’s little dissent on having it as a goal, particularly when it comes to the blight of children growing up in poverty.

As Caron made clear, we find ourselves in government with a party that doesn’t share many of our values – rarely is this crystallised as starkly as this week’s battle over child poverty …

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David Laws challenges Tories on child poverty

The frustrations of being in government with the Tories are no greater than when they are concerned with issues of poverty and vulnerability. Many Liberal Democrats have ongoing concerns about welfare reforms which remove support from people who need it. However much we might try to console ourselves with the fact that we are making a difference with things like free school meals, the raising of the tax threshold, extra childcare for the poorest, an early start to education for the poorest 2 year olds and making sure that the whole country enjoys the benefits of the economic recovery and …

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Martin Horwood MP writes… 1000 days of hunger

The first thousand days of a child’s life – from conception through to their second birthday – are full of moments to cherish. First birthdays, first steps, first words. Whether these events are captured on film, or retold to maximum embarrassment in later years, they are treasured milestones in a child’s life.

A report published yesterday by UNICEF reminds us that those first thousand days aren’t only precious, they are the most critical in shaping a child’s future. Their health, their growth, their ability to learn and even their potential to earn are shaped during this period by one crucial …

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The Independent View: The determinants of child poverty

End child pverty now - Some rights reserved by RMLondonWhat do the public think are the key determinants of child poverty? New DWP polling released last week aimed to answer this question, but in fact proved anything but conclusive.

Asked to choose four out of a possible eleven factors that should be regarded as important when deciding if a child is growing up in poverty, respondents’ answers were spread remarkably evenly across the board. All the factors – from low income to parental disability, poor housing conditions to debt – were …

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Attacking child poverty – David Laws wants your views…

Child poverty in the UK is way too high. It is at unacceptable levels and has been for too long. The government is united in taking child poverty seriously and we are determined – even in difficult times – to reduce child poverty and increase opportunities.

Traditionally we have defined poverty simply by relative income. We know now that this is not sufficient. A child’s experience of poverty is about more than whether their family income this week is low.

That is why we are consulting on a new measure of poverty. The new measure is not about abandoning the past. Nor is it about massaging

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The Independent View: How David Laws can help children and the economy at the same time

When David Laws arrived as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he famously found a note from his predecessor telling him ‘there’s no money left’. With the IFS warning child poverty levels have reached a turning point and will shoot upwards again, we have to hope that any handover note left for him this time is more optimistic, particularly on improving opportunities for poor children.

As Minister for Schools, David Laws will oversee the development of the party’s flagship policy to tackle child poverty, the Pupil Premium, which Sarah Teather lists as one of her main achievements in her time

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Welcoming the report of the Child Poverty Action Group

For many years I was the child poverty champion for the Liberal Democrats. I urged leading members of our parliamentary party to sign up to the targets, which aimed to halve child poverty by 2010 and eliminate it by 2020. I was delighted when those targets were enshrined in law, with cross party support in 2010.

Even though the UK will have missed its half way target, it is expected that at least 900,000 children will have been lifted out of poverty and a similar number prevented from falling into poverty between 1998 and 2010 which is a significant achievement.

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The Independent View: Why the CSJ are wrong on child poverty

While it is true that poverty is often associated with a range of other Bad Things, from stressed out families to poor grades at school and that causation can work both ways, this does not mean that they are the exact same problems.

But when the CSJ proposed new measures of child poverty, they induced exactly this sort of confusion. Below are just two examples:

1. Unstable family structure.

The CSJ suggests that one of the new measures of child poverty should be the percentage of children growing up in married households. However, many rich families get divorced, as do many poor families. Whether …

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The Independent View: There are now two main government narratives about child poverty

It’s been said that Margaret Thatcher’s governments did two things for poverty. First they increased it. Then they pretended it did not exist. As Alan Milburn prepares to makes his first speech as the Independent Reviewer on Social Mobility and Child Poverty on Tuesday, his task will be to help the Coalition avoid a similar, devastating, legacy.

The last government’s record was far from perfect, but Milburn should advise the Coalition to recognise the very real progress made and learn from the successes just as much as from the failings.

Some Ministers, including Lib Dems, have bizarrely trashed the last government’s

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The Independent View: Lib Dems need to champion new ideas for tackling child poverty

Figures released this week by the IFS show that the UK will witness a severe and sustained increase in child poverty over the coming decade, with almost a quarter of British children set to be living in relative poverty by 2020, compared to one fifth in 2009/10. This is despite a projected 7 per cent reduction in real terms median income over the next three years, reducing the amount of income it takes to cross the poverty line.

These figures highlight the growing gulf between the targets set out under the Child Poverty Act, which require the government to reduce …

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The Independent View: Child poverty

In 1999, the government announced that it meant to end child poverty by 2020. Making progress towards that objective is now the responsibility of the Coalition; how well is it likely to do?

Tony Blair’s pronouncement, made out of the blue at a meeting in Toynbee Hall, was a typical coup de théâtre, and it even surprised his own cabinet. It illustrated Mr Blair’s strengths – reassuring supporters who worried that new Labour had lost touch with their Party’s traditional values and at the same time neutralising critics from the other end of the spectrum. For a generation, inegalitarians had …

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Daily View 2×2: 26 January 2010

Today we say ‘Happy Birthday’ to the Special One – Jose Mourinho – who is 47, and to ice hockey’s record goalscorer Wayne Gretzky, who is two years older.

Nine years ago today, more than 25,000 people died after a massive earthquake measuring up to 7.9 on the Richter scale hit the Indian state of Gujarat and neighbouring areas in Pakistan. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton told a White House press conference “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky”.

2 Big Stories

Mother aquitted in new ‘mercy killing’ trial 

Yesterday Sussex mother and former nurse Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of attempting to …

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24,000 children will die today – support our campaign

More than 8.8 million children each year – more than the population of Greater London – die before their fifth birthday. That’s 24,000 every single day. Our government, in common with governments around the world, has committed to cut the rate of deaths by two thirds by 2015. But a lack of political will and focus means that we’re well off track for hitting this target. Immediate action is needed to turn this situation around.

A report we have released today shows that ninety nine in every hundred child deaths happen in the world’s poorest developing countries. The changes that are needed to confront this challenge need to come first and foremost from within these countries. Next year, world leaders will gather to review progress on the eight UN ‘Millennium Development Goals’ for tackling poverty and its underlying causes by 2015.

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Clegg: Lib Dem Social Mobility Commission “shatters the idea that Britain in 2009 is a free and fair society”

The Lib Dem website reports that the party’s independent commission on social mobility – set up by Nick Clegg the day after he was elected leader – has published its full report:

The Independent Social Mobility Commission, set up by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg and chaired by Barnardo’s Chief Executive Martin Narey, has found that a child’s life chances are ‘dependent on the background and earnings of its parents’. The commission’s report also found that increased education funding has failed to reach those children most in need.

The report sets out recommendations for improving the opportunities of disadvantaged children and young people across six key areas: child poverty, early years, education, employment, health and communities.

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    I regularly describe my views this way, a classical liberal on liberty, a social liberal on equality, a social democrat on community, related ideas, and...
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