The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced into an embarrassing and humiliating U-turn over plans to scrap a legal requirement to publish child poverty statistics, it has been reported today.
Iain Duncan Smith had wanted to absolve the Government of a legally binding duty to include household income in child poverty measures, replacing it with the a new system of measurement that focuses on educational attainment and ‘worklessness’.
But under mounting pressure from MPs on all sides of the political spectrum, the Work and Pensions Secretary has now agreed to continue publishing income-related child poverty statistics.
However, the government still wants to scrap existing targets to eradicate child poverty by 2020, and Mr Duncan Smith will not be required to face scrutiny from MPs in the House of Commons.
The news comes just days after the government saw off a House of Lords amendment to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which called on DWP ministers to include household income in the new child poverty measures.
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith MP, welcomed today’s climbdown, saying it “represents a big victory for the campaigners that have come together to demand the Government meaningfully monitors child poverty”.
He Added: “Efforts led by the Labour Party, our Peers, the Bishop of Durham and the charity sector have together forced the Tories to climb down on their bid to cover their tracks on child poverty. They will now be legally bound to keep monitoring child poverty and Labour will be sure to hold them to account for their failures to address it.
“I’m proud that Labour lifted over a million children out of poverty and proud that we continue fighting to do all we can to tackle it.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), also welcomed the announcement, but called for “urgent and substantial action from Government” to help children escape from poverty.
“This is a good and welcome step and we’re pleased that the campaigning work we and others did has helped to secure it”, she said.
“A legally binding duty to publish child poverty statistics reflects the overwhelming view of experts and charities that child poverty must be prioritised and that money matters when we’re discussing child poverty.
“However, the parliamentary time spent repealing the targets on child poverty shows the Prime Minister’s legacy call for an all-out assault on poverty is in deep trouble.
“Child poverty is projected to rise from 2.3m to about 3.8m children by 2020, as a result of the government’s own tax and benefit policies.
“Official statistics measuring child poverty are crucial, but the number one priority has to be urgent and substantial action from government when we’re facing the biggest increase in child poverty in a generation.
“We need a broad, evidence-based approach on poverty and life chances, not one which sidelines child poverty because the outlook here is getting bleaker by the day.”
A DWP spokesperson told Mirror Online: “This Government is dedicated to eradicating child poverty and improving children’s life chances, and we strongly believe that we must tackle the root causes of poverty, rather than just the symptoms.
“Our new measures will be the foundation of a new, comprehensive approach to improving children’s life chances and will drive effective Government action.
“But we’ve always been very clear that we will continue to publish low income statistics.”