Child poverty could rise under government’s welfare plan, says leading Sussex economist

Child poverty is likely to increase in Britain despite the government's strategy of encouraging more families into work, according to a leading University of Sussex economist.

Professor Richard Dickens, whose report is published today (2 November) in the journal of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), examined the previous government's record on child poverty and found that the same approach did not translate into large falls in child poverty.

When New Labour came into power in 1997, one in four of all children in Britain lived in relative income poverty (a household whose income is less than 60 percent of the median income). Although child poverty had fallen by 2010, partly through the introduction of welfare-to-work policies and an increase in benefits for families, the Labour government had not achieved its  target of reducing the figures by half. One in five children was still classed as living in poverty.

Professor Dickens says: "The coalition government has signed up to the 2010 Child Poverty Act, which commits it to certain child poverty targets.  The main policy is to encourage work as the best route out of poverty. But the lessons of the past decade tell us that work alone is not enough to lift people out of poverty - many need tax credits to top up their income.

"And with planned benefit cuts in the pipeline, we could well experience a substantial increase in the number of children living in poverty over the coming years. Currently, the government doesn't have a credible plan as to how it is going to meet the targets as set out in the Child Poverty Act.  This is what we need to see soon if we are going to see the sort of poverty reductions required by 2020."

Professor Dicken's report, 'Child Poverty in Britain: Past Lessons and Future Prospects', was one of four papers published by the NIESR in the National Institute Economic Review on 2 November 2011. Each paper looked at the evolution of the UK's income distribution. Collectively, the reports claim the coalition government's attempts to tackle income inequalities are unlikely to be successful.


Notes for editors

 University of Sussex Press Office, Jacqui Bealing and Maggie Clune,  01273 678888,

By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2011