Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Child Poverty - What about welfare benefits and making work pay?

The key elements of welfare benefits and making work pay appear to be off the table in the discussion about how to eradicate child poverty in the UK. The Scottish Government in its recent consultation paper Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland: A Discussion Paper stated that these were reserved measures and outwith the scope of the Scottish Government. The UK Coalition Government's consultation to inform its child poverty strategy states that 'tackling poverty is not about moving people above an arbitrary income line'.

While the evidence shows that the causes of poverty and disadvantage for people are complex, we know that money does make a difference. We know that low incomes families in Scotland believe that government has a role in addressing low income but have mixed views over the success of government intervention and those of its agents (1). Parents living in deprived areas were more likely than other parents to report low access to services like childcare, health and leisure facilities. Parents living in deprived areas and/or in social housing were also most likely to be dissatisfied with their local facilities (1,2).

Dealing with debt, issues related to long-term unemployment and ensuring access to good services and advice will have a positive effect on families with children. Mothers on low incomes combining paid work and caring for their families sometimes continue working even though it doesn’t pay, suggesting that work itself is important for them. They identify support for the costs of childcare as important but not always sufficient and also suggest that governments need to tackle the problem of making work pay (3).

It is essential that discussion of social security and income are put back on the table for this debate.

(1) CRFR, McKendrick J, Cunningham-Burley S and Backett-Milburn K (2003) Life in low
income families in Scotland: Research report. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive
(2)Growing Up in Scotland Topic Research Findings No.3/2009 ‘Parenting in
the Neighbourhood Context’ Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

(3) Backet- Milburn K, S Cunningham-Burley and D Kemmer (2001) Caring and providing: Lone
and partnered working mothers in Scotland. Edinburgh: Family Policy Studies Centre and
Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

To see the full CRFR response to Tackling Child Poverty in Scotland: A Discussion Paper see http://www.crfr.ac.uk/reports/Tackling%20child%20poverty.pdf

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