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Ending child poverty: giving every child the best start in life - Cooper, Purnell, Balls

Ending child poverty: giving every child the best start in life - Cooper, Purnell, Balls

DEPARTMENT FOR WORK AND PENSIONS News Release (129/09) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 28 January 2009

The Government today set out plans to make sure every child gets the best start in life by tackling child poverty which can unfairly hold children back and prevent them from reaching their full potential.

And today the Government is launching a consultation ahead of a Child Poverty Bill which will enshrine in legislation the Government's promise to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and mean the Government will be held to account on the success of ending child poverty.

Yvette Cooper, James Purnell and Ed Balls launched the consultation, 'Ending Child Poverty: Making it Happen' alongside a guarantee to fund childcare to help parents back to work.

The consultation document makes clear that tackling child poverty is not just about minimum standards of living; it is about the kind of society we want to live in. Significant progress has already been made, between 1998/99 and 2006/07, some 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty and the number of children living in absolute poverty has halved from 3.4 million to 1.7 million children.

The Government is determined that no child is left behind or grows up deprived of the childhood experiences that their peers expect and enjoy. And no child should suffer from the damaging emotional and physical effects of poverty.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said:

"Every child matters and deserves a fair chance to succeed. That is why we must do everything we can to make sure children don't get held back because they grow up in poverty.

"This consultation and our radical child poverty legislation calls on everybody to play their part: we all must redouble our efforts to make sure tackling child poverty is a priority for all of us and a shared mission for our society.

"We know that, as well as child benefit and tax credits, great schools, high quality childcare and helping parents back into work are all vital to break the cycle of poverty. There is no simple solution so this needs a cross-Government approach to help the parents of today and tomorrow.

"That's why we are providing high quality, affordable, flexible childcare and after school clubs to help parents to go back to work and also making sure the next generation have the qualifications they need to help them in the workplace when they become parents."

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions James Purnell said:

"We want to build a society where no child's life is scarred by poverty and every child has the opportunity to reach their potential.

"Work is the best route out of poverty, which is why we will pay for the childcare parents need if they are preparing for work. We will give parents even more support to overcome their own barriers to work - whether that is debt advice, counselling or training to improve their skills."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Yvette Cooper, said:

"This legislation is about setting out what kind of society we want to be and what kind of future we want to build for our children. The credit crunch makes it even more important to commit to ending child poverty in a generation.

"In past recessions, when government didn't do enough to prevent long term unemployment and worklessness, some families and communities were scarred for generations and children were pushed into years of poverty as a result. That's why we're so determined to help families through the tougher times now and to build a better future for children too." A fairer society benefits everybody. Poverty comes at price - the immeasurable cost of wasted potential, but also the financial cost to society of lower educational achievement, poor health and crime.

In the consultation document, the Government outlines the four key aspirations, and steps to achieve them:

* more parents in work that pays;

* financial support that is responsive to families' situations;

* improvements in children's life chances so that poverty in childhood does not translate into poor outcomes;

* and safe, cohesive communities that support children to thrive.

The consultation calls for more accountability and higher expectations, where Government, devolved administrations, local government, charities, unions and families themselves work together to end the scourge of child poverty.

Notes to Editors:

1. The consultation document 'Ending Child Poverty: making it happen' can be found at http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm

2. In December 2008 Professor Paul Gregg published his independent review "Realising Potential: A Vision for Personalised Conditionality and Support', which made recommendations about how the Government could make further progress in reforming the welfare system to promote employment and reduce child poverty. The childcare pilots are a result of this review.

3. The Government pays for childcare for parents who are ready for work and looking for a job, if they need to take up training or go to interviews. It will also pay for childcare for around 70,000 parents of younger children who will take part in new pathfinders to prepare for work.

4. The Government will also test out whether improving the financial incentive for parents to try out work for a few hours a week without losing benefits supports them to make the full transition off welfare and into work. We'll pay for the childcare that parents need to enable them to try out such work for under 16 hours a week.

5. The Government is committed to improving such opportunities and is today publishing an updated childcare strategy document Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare: Building on the 10-Year Strategy. This makes clear that access is rapidly improving so that in England:

* Childcare places have more than doubled since 1997, making childcare more available;

* Almost all children aged 3 and 4 are taking advantage of the offer of a free early learning place;

* Free early learning will be made available to disadvantaged two year olds and will be extended, stage by stage, to all two year old children; an

* Almost 2.3m children and their families can now use one of almost 3,000 Sure Start Children's Centres.

Media enquiries: DWP Katie Martin 0203 267 5130

DCSF Louise Orr 0207 227 5180

HMT Daniel York-Smith 020 7270 4982

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