Budget 2008: Budget ‘to tackle’ child poverty

The government is expected to recommit itself to tackling child poverty when Alistair Darling delivers the Budget today.

But amid an economic downturn it appears unlikely the chancellor will be able to release the funds campaigners say are necessary to meet the government’s target of abolishing child poverty.

To hit interim targets of halving child poverty by 2010 the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimates the government must spend an additional £4 billion on tax credits and benefits.

The CPAG accepted Mr Darling would not release these funds today, but called on the chancellor to make an investment which showed the government’s “serious intent” to tackle child poverty.

It is expected that Mr Darling will use any financial leeway available to him to tackle deprivation.

As well as child poverty this will include a focus on disability, with one in three disabled adults of working age living in poverty.

This follows a warning from a Commons committee earlier this month that children with one disabled parent have a much higher risk of growing up in poverty.

In his final budget last year – which had the luxury of a more buoyant economy – Gordon Brown was able to announce an additional £1 billion to tackle child poverty.

The CPAG believes Britain does have the necessary wealth to end child poverty and now needs the “moral courage of the nation” to take the necessary steps.

Nearly a decade ago Mr Brown and Tony Blair committed New Labour to abolishing child poverty by 2020 but the government has been increasingly warned it risks falling short of this target.

The work and pensions committee said this month that the interim 2010 target of halving child poverty would fail unless resources are made available.

Mr Brown’s own commitment was also questioned when he failed to make any substantial pledges to child poverty in his first months after becoming prime minister.

But earlier this month in his keynote speech to Labour’s spring conference, he described child poverty as a “scar that demeans Britain” which must be healed.