It calls for a government Minister to have specific responsibility for reducing child poverty in the capital, and for tougher targets for Jobcentre Plus to help more London parents into work. The report also calls for:
• an increase in child tax credit at national level by £9 a week and for child benefit for second and subsequent children to rise to the level of the first child. This would reduce child poverty in the capital by nearly 10%;
• the Low Pay Commission to consider the case for a London minimum wage;
• the London Skills and Employment Board to work with employers and trade unions to develop career ladders for workers in marginal positions, targeting parents and first generation migrants in low paying sectors;
• a top-up to tax credits in London of £20 a week, plus an extra £5 per child to improve work incentives and to cover the extra costs of housing in the capital;
• more resources for intensive work on literacy for pupils who miss expected Key Stage 1 levels fo reading and writing.
• a London-wide improvement programme to set standards and promote best practice for managing the transition from primary to secondary school. Employers can lead the way too in offering flexible working opportunities, in-work training for parents starting off on the bottom rung of the ladder, and by tackling discrimination to ensure that all have equal access to jobs. Councils can drive change at local level by welding together children’s services, housing, economic development and regeneration to tackle family poverty. They also have a crucial role in improving the take-up of housing benefit when people move into work.
The report recommends that housing benefit (HB) should be fixed for six months for all claimants who have been on HB for over a year and who are moving into paid employment. Child poverty rates are particularly high among families living in social housing in London. The report argues that the Mayor of London should require social landlords and their partners to provide closer integration of housing and employment services. Child poverty rates in the capital are higher than elsewhere in the country. Four out of ten children – 650,000 - are living in poverty in London. Families are more likely to be deeper in poverty and more likely to be without a job. They are also more likely to have fewer choices about their housing and more likely to face multiple disadvantages. Launching the report, Chair of the London Child Poverty Commission, Carey Oppenheim, says: “It is hard to believe that four out of ten children are living in poverty in one of the richest cities in the world. We have a once in a generation opportunity to make a difference to children’s lives - this report identifies practical steps which can have an impact now and in the future. But making an impact will only work if different players – whether it is government at national regional or local level, employers, or people working directly with families and children - act in concert.
If we work together we can transform the lives of London’s most disadvantaged children.” And Cllr Merrick Cockell, Chairman of London Councils, comments: “London Councils applauds the work that the Commission has carried out in the last two years. Eradicating child poverty is one of the biggest challenges facing the capital – and yet what this report makes absolutely clear is that it is achievable, and together we can tackle these entrenched inequalities. “London’s local government is committed to rising to this challenge. We will be going through the report in detail to see how best we can make a difference on the ground. I would urge central and regional government to back us with the support and resources we need to really make a difference.” FACTS What do we mean by child poverty?
• The standard official definition of poverty means those living in a household with an income less than 60% of the national median income. For example, this definition means that a couple with one child under 14 would be living in poverty if they had an income below £11,569 per year (at 2005/06 prices) and a lone parent with one child aged under 14 would be living in poverty with an annual income below £7,540. High risk groups
• Some groups face higher risks of poverty – such as those living in social housing, lone parent families, and some Black and Minority Ethnic groups. London also has a higher share of groups at risk of poverty. For some groups, the risk of poverty is even higher in London than elsewhere: o 68% of children living in social housing in London are in poverty compared to 58% at national level o 60% of children living in lone parent families in London are in poverty compared to 50% at national level