New research by a number of distinguished experts published today by the Child Poverty Action Group explores how Labour’s unprecedented commitment to reduce child poverty affected families in the UK during its time in office.
The verdict is unambiguous: as Mike Brewer puts it ‘“The extra investment on benefits and tax credits for families with children between 1997 and 2010 increased incomes amongst millions of families in the bottom half of the income distribution, not just those clustered around the poverty line, providing an unprecedented improvement to the material wellbeing of British families.’
The report is not just about incomes: there is a wealth of detail on child development, social mobility, housing, child protection and education – far too much to summarise here. But there is one big finding that Labour supporters may want to commit to memory :
• Without the major increases in financial support to families with children that Labour introduced, child poverty would be an estimated 1.8 million higher in 2010. (see Mike Brewer here).
The report is not an uncritical endorsement of Labour’s record: there is criticism of lack of progress over Labour’s last five years in power, of the failure to establish a universal affordable childcare service and of much more. And of course Labour did not meet its ambitious target of halving child poverty by 2010.
That said, does anyone seriously believe that Labour would have kept 1.8 million children out of income poverty without setting itself such unforgiving targets?
For those of us who have been critical of aspects of Labour’s record this report is a reminder of what can be achieved with commitment backed by resources and serious policy innovation. For many in Labour, the child poverty ambition defined what was best about the party in government. Today’s report shows that there was a solid body of achievement corresponding to that ambition.