Gordon Brown calling for Government drive to tackle child poverty

Former prime minister Gordon Brown is calling for a multibillion-pound programme to tackle childhood poverty.

He is urging Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use a mini-budget later this year to announce a £3 billion drive to tackle the issue.

Mr Brown warned that without help, the number of children living in poverty could increase to a record 4.5 million.

He published a paper setting out potential emergency anti-poverty measures including bringing back the Sure Start programme, supporting the low waged and unemployed into better paid jobs, and extending the household support fund.

Mr Brown said: “The sprawling nature of the poverty crisis – which has tentacles reaching into health, education, work, community, energy transport and more – should banish any illusion that this is a challenge that can be safely led from any one department.

“Instead, a cross-government task force will be required, not something separate from the departments that control the levers of delivery, but a body staffed with senior people embedded in each relevant ministry who then combine to advance a strategy in a single forum away from the usual silos.

“Coordination and administrative support in a comprehensive and integrated way at the centre of government would be one natural way to arrange this.

“But it has to have the chairmanship and thus the enthusiastic blessing of the Prime Minister for it to succeed. Without this level of high level sponsorship and true willingness to take big decisions, so-called ‘task forces’ can exert disappointingly little force.”

The Children’s Charities Coalition, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, National Children’s Bureau, NSPCC, The Children’s Society, said: “Gordon Brown is right to call for action to tackle child poverty which is having an overwhelming impact on children and families up and down the country.

“Adequately addressing the scale of the problem requires political will from the very top of Government.

“The Prime Minister and other party leaders must commit to ending child poverty once and for all with a roadmap to achieve this set out in the next King’s Speech.

“But we need action now because early support for families leads to happier, healthier and safer childhoods for all children, especially those experiencing poverty.

“The Government could drive improvements for babies, children and young people today by scrapping the two-child limit for benefit payments and the benefit cap, boosting the child element of Universal Credit and increasing funding for early help services.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We will continue to make every effort to tackle child poverty, which is down since 2010.

“Our £108 billion cost-of-living package also prevented 1.3 million people, including 300,000 children, falling into absolute poverty with the heightened cost-of-living pressures driven by the war in Ukraine and impact of Covid.

“Children are less likely to be in poverty where all adults work, and our £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan will help over a million people break down barriers to work while we also cut taxes, boost the National Living Wage and drive down inflation to support hard-working families.”

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