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Saturday, 30 August 2014

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Almost 7,500 children in south and west Cumbria ‘living in poverty’

THE government has denied it is trying to “massage the figures” concerning 7,500 children living in poverty in south and west Cumbria.

Ministers want to move away from the previous Labour government’s focus on relative household income as an indicator of child poverty and use a “multidimensional” measure which takes into account factors like worklessness, family stability and parents’ health and skills.

Figures released earlier this year by The Campaign to End Child Poverty show the stark divide across the country and Cumbria itself with 20 per cent of children in the parliamentary constituency of Barrow living in poverty and 18 per cent in Copeland, compared to eight per cent in South Lakeland.

It means an estimated 3,697 children are in poverty in Barrow, 2,501 in Copeland and 1,264 in South Lakes.

A child is considered to be living in poverty if their household income is less than 60 per cent of average wages.

Last year that figure equated to £251 per week, which meant 2.3 million children were living in poverty.

In the consultation announced to parliament, family breakdown, drug addiction, debt and education results are among the factors that could be used to measure child poverty in future.

But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith denied the proposals were about “massaging the figures”.

He said that money “matters” but insisted it was not “absolutely representative of a child’s life chances”.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “A fixation on the element of relative income or driving people over an arbitrary line does little to identify those entrenched in disadvantage or to transform their lives.

“The new measure would provide a much better indication of how many children are in poverty and to what degree.”

Eradicating child poverty by 2020 was one of the major aims of the Labour government, and the target was also adopted by the coalition.

Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said: “It doesn’t matter what camouflage they wear, the government can’t hide the fact they’re giving a £40,000 tax cut to millionaires yet wiping out a decade of progress tackling child poverty in just one parliament.

“If ministers move an inch from the Child Poverty Act they supported in opposition, we will know they are about to abandon the fight against child poverty while giving an enormous tax cut to the richest in society.”

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