Tony Blair: ‘We took a million kids out of poverty – the Tories reversed it’

Former PM Tony Blair had made the goal to eradicate child poverty by 2020

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak tomorrow has the opportunity to lift thousands of British kids out of child poverty and give them a better life. 

In his Autumn Statement, he has the chance to end the suffering of 4.2million children.
Incredibly, almost three quarters of youngsters in poverty today have at least one working parent. 

But all this could change today if Mr Sunak backed our Give Me Five campaign for an immediate increase in child benefit, and boosted the National Minimum Wage to £10 an hour.

A £5-a-week increase in child benefit would see families gain £340 a year on average and lift 200,000 children out of poverty.

We also want the Government to restore child tax credits, scrap the two-child limit axe the benefit cap, and commit to keeping the £20 uplift in Universal Credit.

Our campaign is backed by Labour leader Keir Starmer and his predecessor, former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Here Mr Blair writes exclusively for the Mirror:

In 1999, speaking at Toynbee Hall, I set out a clear aim that our generation would be the first “to end child poverty for ever” through a “20 year mission”.

2020 marks the year by which I had hoped we would have met this goal or eradicating child poverty.

Sadly, despite the progress under the Labour government, it remains a mission not just yet to be completed but in danger of being lost.

During Labour’s time in office we took a million children out of poverty. Absolute and relative measures of child poverty fell significantly.

This was driven by carefully defined policy action, overseen by clear drive from the centre of government.

A group of nine kids who handed a letter to the then-PM in 2005 calling for action on child poverty
(Image: PA)

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A key element of these improvements was the increased spending Labour made on benefits and tax credits, resulting in an additional £18 billion in spending on benefits for families with children.

This was aligned with ambitious policies like the National Minimum Wage, Sure Start, increased support for childcare, maternity & paternity pay & leave, dramatic increases in spending on education and the expansion of the number of young people going onto higher education.

A report by the IFS showed that the overall distributional impact of tax and benefit changes under the last Labour government saw the poorest 10% of households gain by around 13% in their incomes, while the richest 10% lost by almost 9%.

We reduced child poverty with a progressive approach to tax and spending.

Sadly, this progress on child poverty has been lost over the last decade.

Compared – how the two parties have handled child poverty

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The deeps cuts made by the Coalition Government have had a significant impact on many areas of policy, but particularly on child poverty.

Sure Start centres have been closed, with between 500 and 1000 shut since 2010.

Benefits have been frozen, with household incomes under growing pressure.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation cite the freeze as the biggest single driver behind rising poverty.

There are now 4.2 million children living in poverty, 600,000 more than in 2011/12. This figure is projected, according to the Social Mobility Commission, to rise to 5.2 million by 2022.

Millions of children are living in desperate conditions
(Image: Getty)

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As the action taken under my government shows, this situation is not inevitable.

Child poverty can, and must, be tackled head on.

Every child living in poverty is a stain on our nation, that millions still do so is nothing short of a national tragedy.

Targeted government spending and policy has a significant impact on reducing child poverty.

When I set the target of eradicating child poverty entirely by 2020 I knew the goal was ambitious. But the imperative of helping our children have the best start in life couldn’t be more pressing.

As the economic anaesthetic of government stimulus to support the economy during Covid starts to wear off, I worry greatly about what faces our country, not just in general but particularly our children.

Especially given the impact the virus, and lockdown, has had on our education system.

All of this is before we even begin to factor in the prospect of an imminent hard Brexit and the impact that will have on the UK.

With these economic clouds on the horizon, never has the task of tackling child poverty been more urgent.

I call on the government to recommit to the task of bearing down on child poverty.

The incredible work Marcus Rashford has been doing on free school meals shows the urgency of the task and the scale of support for action.

No family should have to rely on food banks to be able to survive.

Targets are sometimes maligned but they clarify the mind and the mission.

As a country, let’s recommit to eradicating child poverty within a generation.

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