Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Anti-child poverty measures urged

The Government has been urged to make childcare more affordable in a bid to cut child poverty

The Government must learn lessons from abroad to tackle child poverty, according to a report.

The National Children's Bureau (NCB) is calling on the Government to urgently review its approach to reducing child poverty by studying European neighbours.

The solutions include: making childcare more affordable for working mothers; offering cash incentives for families to promote children's health and well-being; introducing neighbourhood anti-poverty zones, and establishing a ministerial child poverty board to drive forward action across government.

The study, Tackling child poverty and promoting children's well-being: lessons from abroad, said the key move was bringing childcare costs within the reach of low-income families and encouraging mothers into employment. In Denmark 84% of mothers with children under the age of 16 work, compared to just 67% in the UK.

To make childcare more affordable, the study authors said the Government should consider increasing the hours of free early education, raising the proportion of childcare costs covered by tax credits and Universal Credit, and reviewing how after school care could be made more readily available.

Supplementing families' incomes for engaging in activities that promote child health and wellbeing is another measure which has contributed to tackling child poverty abroad.

A broad range of actions must be taken at the community level to provide better economic opportunities, housing, infrastructure, community safety and local services, the report said.

Enver Solomon, of the NCB said: "If the Government's commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020 is to be met, it needs to think more creatively and examine initiatives in other countries.

"By drawing on approaches from abroad and applying them in the UK, we can not only improve the finances of poorer families, but we can encourage them to engage with services that bring real improvements to health and well-being so increasing their resilience.

"Government must focus less on how to measure poverty and act decisively to introduce robust mechanisms for ensuring that progress in the fight against child poverty is swift and permanent. Critical to this is making childcare affordable for low income families and overall taking a far more strategic cross government approach that is driven by a powerful ministerial board."

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