‘Radical Change’ On Child Poverty

New targets on tackling child poverty in Wales have been set by the assembly government which, it says, demand a “radical rethink of policy”.

Minister Huw Lewis said the change was needed to reach Labour’s aim of wiping out Welsh child poverty by 2020.

Milestones for 2010 have been laid down in areas such as teenage pregnancy, health and school achievement.

Child poverty has fallen by a fifth in Wales since 1999, but over a quarter of families are still on low incomes.

Last July social policy charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that the number of children in poor Welsh households dropped from 34% to 27% in the six years to 2005.

The assembly government published its strategy on child strategy in 2005, which led to another charity, Save the Children, to call for clear targets, a timetable, and the funding to carry it out.

The assembly government described its latest targets as “ambitious,” and said they would “guide work and measure success”.

One aim is to halve the number of children in poverty by 2010.

“Nothing can be more important than eradicating child poverty,” said Mr Lewis, the AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

“It is central to all of the Welsh Assembly Government’s priorities and impacts on every portfolio.

“Although we have made good progress and seen a 21% reduction since 1999, it is clear that to achieve our 2020 goal we need a radical rethink of policy across the assembly government.”

Mr Lewis said First Minister Rhodri Morgan and his Cabinet supported “this ambitious range of milestones and targets”.

He said the targets could change “depending on their usefulness,” but added that “our overall aim – equal chances and an end to poverty for all children by 2020 – will remain as one of the most important goals we have ever set”.

The next step could see ministers in Cardiff Bay asking for new powers under the Government of Wales Act to force bodies which receive state funding to indicate how they can help to solve the problem.

The setting of new milestones was welcomed by Sara Reid, the deputy children’s commissioner for Wales, as a way of speeding the process.

A family are considered to be officially poor if they are living on less than 60% of Britain’s median (average) level of household income.

The UK government also pledged in 1999 that it wanted to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

However, it emerged last March that Tony Blair’s government had missed its first target.

Official figures showed the number of children in poverty had dropped by 700,000 since 1999, falling short by 300,000.

Ministers said the government remained committed to wiping out poverty within a generation, but opposition MPs were critical.