Speaking in parliament, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said legislation will be brought forward to “remove the existing measures and targets in the Child Poverty Act, as well as the other duties and provisions”.
Instead the government would be given a statutory duty to report on measures of “worklessness” and “educational attainment”. These will identify the proportion of children living in workless households, and the proportion of children in long-term workless households. The educational attainment measures will focus on GCSE attainment for all pupils and for disadvantaged pupils.
He said that alongside the statutory measures the government:
“will develop a range of other indicators to measure the progress against the root causes of poverty. We know that in households with unstable relationships, where debt and addiction destabilise families, where parents lack employment skills, that these children don’t have the same chances in life as other children. They cannot break out of the cycle of disadvantage. We are currently developing these measures, including family breakdown, problem debt, and drug and alcohol dependency. We will report each year on these life chances measures as well.”
Campaigners have acted angrily to the announcement. Peter Grigg, director of external affairs at The Children’s Society said the government has “broken its promise to end child poverty by 2020. Scrapping the Child Poverty Act and replacing it with inadequate measures based on worklessness and low educational attainment will do nothing to help the millions of children who are suffering in real poverty now,” he said.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group said:
"Today's statement isn't about strengthening efforts to end child poverty but about burying the failure of the government's child poverty approach. And with more cuts coming down the line, child poverty is set to rise. 2/3 of poor children are in working families – it's unclear whether these children will be counted as poor in the future. A child poverty strategy which excludes income isn't a child poverty strategy."