Sunday, 5 October 2008

Keep the promise march against poverty 4 Oct 08

Yesterday, after having a morning meeting in London, I joined thousands of campaigners calling on the government to end child poverty who had marched through London and were rallying in Trafalgar Square. Keep the promise was organised by the Campaign to End Child Poverty, a coalition of 120 organisations. It says the 2009 Budget is the last real chance the government has to meet its 2010 target to halve child poverty. I doubt there is much chance of Labour keeping any of its financial commitments but the people there were enthusiastic and full of hope for the future.

The coalition's report this week said more than a third of UK children live in low-income families or families in poverty. It found that of the 13,233,320 children in the UK, 5,559,000 are in families that are classed as "struggling". The End Child Poverty campaign is backed by organisations including Barnardo's, Unicef and the NSPCC. According to its research, there are 4,634,000 children in England living in low income families, 297,000 in Wales, 428,000 in Scotland and 198,000 in Northern Ireland. Campaign director Hilary Fisher said: "Poverty has an impact on every aspect of a child's life, health, education and well-being. Now is the time for the government to turn their commitment into reality and provide that investment which will make that change."

Mr Brown said he would honour the pledge. "We will, in law, make it the duty of government, by 2020, to have eradicated child poverty in this country." But there is little chance of him being PM in 2020, so its an easy promise to make. A future government could change that law.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's and chairman of the campaign, said fulfilling the government's commitments could be Mr Brown's "greatest legacy". But he said it would take an extra £3bn to meet its 2010 target, less than half of 1% of public expenditure. The Campaign to End Child Poverty defines poverty as when a family has an average of £10 per person per day to live on, or less.

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