Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Tackling Child Poverty – Press Conference given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer [December 2001]

The press release issued by HM Treasury on 13 December 2001.

Speaking at a press conference today to launch ?Tackling Child Poverty: Giving Every Child the Best Possible Start in Life?, a new consultation document setting out the Government’s strategy to tackle child poverty, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, said:

“Child poverty is a scar on Britain’s soul and an affront to our sense of decency as a nation.

Halving child poverty in ten years and abolishing it in a generation – as Tony Blair has pledged – is not just a moral issue, but a litmus test for any political party and a challenge for every person in Britain.

Every child deserves the best possible start in life.  For too long in the past families with children missed out, both financially and on growing up in a secure environment, with wider opportunities to develop.

Tackling child poverty and disadvantage is not about providing either more money or better public services; it is about the necessity of both.  As Government supports parents, in turn it is right that parents fulfill their responsibilities too.  We cannot tackle poverty from the centre of Government alone, but must do so with our valued partners in the voluntary, community and faith sectors.  These sectors have a unique role in reaching local communities and needs on the ground.

Today at Downing Street faith groups, community leaders and leading charities gathered to discuss how together we can win on the war against child poverty.

This unique gathering has come together because they recognise – as I believe the country recognises – that together we must ensure that no child is left behind.

Children are not only our single biggest investment in the future – but measures to tackle child poverty are the best anti-vandalism, anti-crime, anti-delinquency policies we can pursue.

And if every child is to have the best start in life, we will need to do more to cut child poverty.

Money matters, but the battle cannot be won by money alone.

Today we are setting out measures to raise family incomes through our new tax credits with a commitment to improving public services and supporting parenting. We are demonstrating our determination to engage not just national Government, but local communities, the voluntary sector and faith groups who must play their part as well.

Our measures start from our faith in the family and in responsibilities matched to rights as the bedrocks of a stable and healthy society.

And at the heart of our approach is integrating payments for child support into a new and seamless system, where for the first time, all child support is paid to the mother, the best way, according to all the evidence, to tackle child poverty.

For twenty years, the living standards of families with children fell behind the rest of the population. By the mid 1990s, the average income for households with children was around 30 per cent lower than for those without children.

Our new Child Tax Credit will build on the tax cuts we have already delivered for families. And every family needs extra support at key times, in particular, after the birth of a child. So to help ease the pressure on new parents, our reforms – raising maternity pay matched to new paternity pay – are making it easier for mothers to make the choice to stay at home after their child is born – and for much longer than previously.

Reform also means we should match new opportunities we offer families with the responsibilities we expect of them.

All parents – must accept their responsibilities for their children.

That obligation does not end if the relationship between the parents should come to an end. Parenthood is for life, and financial responsibility for children should and will continue until adulthood.

Where parents live apart, the best arrangements for children are when both accept financial responsibility for their children. But if one parent fails to discharge his or her duties, we will not stand aside.

We’ve doubled the number of absent fathers paying their maintenance in full since we came to power. Our latest reforms will do more to ensure all children receive at least some of the money collected on their behalf and we have strengthened the sanctions for those who fail to comply.

Responsibility for children lies with parents, but government can encourage good parenting. Already we have provided £1 million to establish the National Family and Parenting Institute. We have funded Parentline, so parents can receive support from volunteers who are parents themselves.

And we will be increasing help to the marriage and relationship support services.

Vulnerable parents need special help. The children of teenage mothers are in turn more likely to be teenage mothers themselves. Their children are more likely to be underweight and to face worse outcomes in later life. We can and will break this cycle.

As we have said, the Government believes that, if they cannot live in parental home, mothers under 18 should be accommodated in supported housing rather than housed alone and isolated with their babies.?

Giving children a good start in life requires not only cash help and parental support but also good schools, good health services, and good public services.

In addition, our new children’s fund is designed to support the innovative and make it commonplace, to turn local successes into country-wide triumphs. It is Government money to back local and volunteer initiatives to tackle child poverty with the emphasis on prevention, not simply coping with failure. Faith-based organizations are being encouraged to apply.

So our approach combines rights and responsibilities to the best interests of children, a families first policy which provides support for all families; gives an extra helping hand when families need it most; and offers additional support for those who need it most; and involves all of us accepting our responsibilities – as parents, neighbours, citizens and community leaders.

We ask the whole country to join the crusade to end child poverty and ensure all children have the best possible start in life.”