Government urged to rethink changes to child poverty laws
A UEL Professor of Early Childhood is urging politicians not to abandon a law which obliged local authorities to help poor families.
The major targets set by the Child Poverty Act – including the ambition to eradicate child poverty by 2020 – are being replaced by the government. Ministers say the Act is flawed because it uses income as a measure of poverty. They plan to replace it with legislation which focuses on improving children’s educational success, and on the importance of work as a route out of poverty.
Professor Eva Lloyd of UEL’s Cass School of Education and Communities says these decisions could be counter-productive in the long run: “The kind of measures now being taken could lead to much greater costs for government later on in terms of lives blighted, when things go wrong for families and children.”
Professor Lloyd contributed evidence to a report by the Children’s Commissioner for England, which was presented to MPs and Peers this week. The report, ‘Changing the Odds in the Early Years’, looked at the effectiveness of the Child Poverty Act. It took a sample of 10 local authorities, and considered whether they were meeting the duties imposed on them by the Act in relation to low-income families with young children.
The results were not encouraging: Professor Lloyd says very often councils haven’t even begun to implement their obligations to provide effective services for this group. But she says the answer is not to throw out laws which oblige local authorities to help disadvantaged children.
Professor Lloyd also argues that if families have to move house because of the new reduction in the benefits cap, the links they have made with the services which help them will be broken. This lack of continuity can have a detrimental effect on their experience of early years care and education.
“My best hope is that the practical work being done by local authorities, NGOs and the Health Service to alleviate poverty continues, irrespective of whether the legislation is in place,” says Professor Lloyd. “I would like them to keep the legislation in place but if it isn’t, at least keep the principles in place – because local authorities are more likely to do this work for children.”
'Changing the Odds in the Early Years’ is published by the Children’s Commissioner for England.
Notes to Editors
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