Rachel Reeves

Member of Parliament for Leeds West

Rachel's article for Labour List on child poverty

Under David Cameron’s government child poverty is rising not falling. And the government’s failure to tackle child poverty leads to kids freezing in the winter because they don’t have a coat or arriving at school hungry because they haven’t eaten breakfast.


Cameron is too busy trying to redefine child poverty to tackle it


Under the Tory-led government child poverty is set to rise, not fall. More children are going without the daily essentials that most take for granted. Yet ministers seem more interested in changing the way poverty is defined rather than doing anything to help people get on in life.

It’s a typical response of an out-of-touch government which cuts taxes for millionaires while hitting families on low incomes hard, including the Bedroom Tax, and doing nothing to tackle low pay and exploitation.

The extent of the government’s failure on child poverty is astonishing:

1. Child poverty is set to rise by 400,000 between 2011-12 and 2015-16 and 900,000 by 2020 according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies

2. One third of the half a million people helped in the last nine months of 2013 at food banks run by the Trussell Trust were children

3. The government’s decision to cut tax credits and benefits in real terms is set to push 200,000 children into poverty

4. Record numbers of children in poverty are now in working households

It is clear children are bearing the brunt of this government’s divisive policies. If David Cameron was serious about cutting child poverty he would scrap the Bedroom Tax, introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee, strengthen the Minimum Wage, provide incentives to employers to pay the Living Wage and extend free childcare provision.

The Bedroom Tax has pushed thousands of families into spiralling debt and has been a major driver in the increasing numbers of people who are being forced to rely on food banks. More than half a million have been hit by the Tories’ tax on bedrooms, two-thirds of whom are disabled. The government should ditch the Bedroom Tax; if they don’t then a Labour government will.

The Tories have failed to tackle long-term unemployment. The number of young people who are long-term unemployed has doubled under David Cameron. The government should introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get the long-term unemployed off benefits and into work. This would ensure real paid work for young people unemployed for a year and all adults unemployed for two years – work they would have to take or lose their benefits. The Compulsory Jobs Guarantee would be funded by a repeat of the bank bonus tax and restricting pension tax relief for the wealthiest.

Labour would address the issue of low pay by strengthening the minimum wage, incentivising employers to pay a living wage and cracking down on the abuse of zero-hours contracts.

David Cameron’s childcare crunch is exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis faced by working families and shutting too many mums out of the job market. Helping more women into work or to work the hours they want is good for families, children, and the economy, and helps us control the costs of social security by helping more families earn enough to live on. Labour will help all working parents by extending free childcare provision, for three and four-year-olds with parents in work, from 15 to 25 hours.

And a Labour government will take action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis by freezing energy prices, saving the average household £120 a year.

Government policies are deepening the cost-of-living crisis faced by hard-pressed families. Child poverty is set to rise by 400,000 by May 2015. Changing the way poverty is defined won’t cover up the failure of David Cameron’s government to tackle child poverty and ensure fewer kids arrive at school hungry and cold.

Rachel Reeves is the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

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