Child poverty: Does throwing money at the problem work?


Anne Marie Carrie, Commissioner, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission & former Chief Executive, Barnados
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group
Dr Samantha Callan, Director for Families and Mental Health, Centre for Social Justice


Emran Mian, Director, SMF

This roundtable event, focusing on the problems of child poverty and stagnating social mobility, is the first in a series of events which the Social Market Foundation is hosting as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s 2015 anti-poverty strategy work. The series will explore new ideas to tackle issues such as in-work poverty; high rates of youth unemployment; and declining social mobility.

Child poverty targets set out by Tony Blair in 1998 established two important milestones: the halving of relative income child poverty by 2010, and its abolition by 2020. However, in policy terms, these two goals pulled in opposite directions. In short, the 2010 goal was about ‘cash’ and equalising outcomes, while the 2020 target was about ‘services’ and equalising opportunities.

Between 1998 – 2008, Labour pursued both goals simultaneously, with some success. But the financial crisis has meant that no longer can there be the same spending on these two aims without a politically unfeasible increase in taxes. In light of this, the Coalition has prioritised the protection of schools spending and introduce the pupil premium, while also showing a commitment to childcare provision.

On the financial support side, the Government has eroded the value of welfare support as part of its deficit reduction plan, disagreeing with income measures of poverty. The result of which, it has been argued, will be rising levels of child poverty.

This roundtable event will ask: what does the evidence suggest about the importance of income poverty in affecting subsequent life chances? Is there an appropriate balance between financial transfers and spending on services to tackle poverty? What is the evidence from other countries and how do they strike the balance? Should the government revisit the trade-off?

This event is kindly supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation