3.8 million British children in poverty

April 12, 2007

Official British government figures released on March 27 revealed that in the past year, the number of children in Britain living in relative poverty increased by 200,000. According to the March 27 BBC News, in 2005-06 the total number of children who satisfied the official definition of relative poverty — living in households with incomes equalling less than 60% of the national average when housing costs are included — rose from 3.6 million to a staggering 3.8 million.

The statistics — released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) — exposed yet another New Labour false promise. According to the April 7 Socialist Worker, in a 1999 speech reminiscent of his now infamous 1997 claim that ours would be the first generation in history never to send our children to war, Prime Minister Tony Blair declared: "Our historic aim will be for ours to be the first generation to end child poverty forever, and it will take a generation. It is a 20-year mission, but I believe it can be done."

In light of the DWP statistics, child poverty campaigners poured scorn on Blair's hollow rhetoric. BBC News quoted Martin Narey of the children's charity Barnado's as saying: "This is a moral disgrace. In 1999, we were all excited by the government's determination to eradicate child poverty and, on the way, to halve it by 2010." Claire Tickell, of the children's charity NCH, told the March 28 Morning Star that the DWP statistics were "a disgrace in a country that is one of the richest in the world".

The March 31 Socialist Worker pointed out that according to the same set of statistics there had been a rise "of half a million in the number of people of working age living in relative poverty after housing costs in 2005-6".

Earlier this year UNICEF, the United Nations children's organisation, published a report — Child Poverty in Perspective: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries — that ranked Britain last out of 21 wealthy industrial countries surveyed on the basis of 40 indicators relating to child poverty, family relationships and health. One of the authors of the report, Professor Jonathan Bradshaw of York University, told the February 14 BBC News that Britain's appalling performance was due to "long term under-investment and a dog-eat-dog society". The US joined Britain at the bottom end of the UNICEF league table, in 20th place.

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