A "YAWNING chasm" separates the Government's ambition to end
child poverty by 2020, and the reality, which is that 3.5 million
children will be in absolute poverty, Alan Milburn warned on
Mr Milburn chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty
Commission, which monitors the progress of the Government in
meeting the 2020 target, inherited from the previous
This week, the Commission issued a stark assessment of the
Government's new child-poverty strategy, which "falls far short of
what is needed". The targets would be missed by a "considerable
distance", it suggested. Ending child poverty mainly through
getting more parents into work was not "remotely realistic".
Speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4 on Monday,
Mr Milburn said: "There is a yawning chasm which seems to be
growing every wider between the ambition of ending child poverty
and the reality of it increasing." He spoke of "a failure to
acknowledge that the nature of poverty in our country has changed
quite dramatically over the last few decades.
"It is the working poor today, not the workless or the work-
shy, who make up the vast majority of the poor in our country."
The report acknowledges that the Government has made progress in
one of its approaches to tackling child poverty: poor children are
getting better school results. Its second approach - enabling more
parents to enter work and earn more - is singled out for criticism,
however. Although there are more parents in employment than ever
before, many remain in low-paid unemployment. Three-quarters of
those in low-paid jobs in 2002 were still on low pay in 2012.
Meeting the current child-poverty targets within the current tax
and benefit system would require almost 100 per cent of parents to
be employed, in addition to big increases in their working hours,
the report notes. This was "implausible, if not impossible", Mr
The Child Poverty Act 2010 commits the Government to ensuring
that less than ten per cent of children live in relative poverty by
2020 (in households with income lower than 60 per cent of the
median), and that less than five per cent live in absolute poverty
(in households with income lower than 60 per cent of the median in
2010).In 2012, 17 per cent of children lived in relative poverty
and 20 per cent in absolute poverty. The Commission's research
suggests that, by 2020, this will rise to 21 per cent and 24 per
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Our
strategy outlines plans to tackle the root causes of poverty,
including worklessness . . . and educational failure. This approach
is a better reflection of the reality of child poverty in the UK
today. . .
"The commission's own research highlights the weaknesses of the
current child-poverty measures - calculating poverty by income
alone fails to address the issues which hold people back, and
that's what we're tackling."