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No child should be denied life opportunities because they live in poverty

3 min read

This winter is going to be hard for a lot of families. We are facing a cost-of-living crisis, following the Conservative government’s triple whammy of a £1,000 a year cut in Universal Credit, higher taxes on working people, and energy bills allowed to go through the roof. Many are worried about how they will afford to celebrate Christmas this year.

I know what it’s like for families to have to choose between heating and eating. I grew up on a council estate with a single parent. My mum took any job she could to make ends meet. But there were still times when she had to go without, or when both of us sat in the dark because she couldn’t afford to top up the meter.

To those who say there is little difference between Labour and the Conservatives, there is no starker divide than our parties’ approaches to child poverty.

The last Labour government saw it as its moral mission to give children the best possible start in life. Two years into office, Gordon Brown used his Budget to declare a “war on child poverty”, setting government targets for the public to judge his progress by, implementing measures to help parents into work and better support for families. Not only did we lift a million children out of poverty, we made record investment in our schools and created Sure Start.

Rishi Sunak didn’t mention “child poverty” once in last month’s Budget. He is following the pattern set by the past 11 years of Conservative rule, during which they have abolished the Child Poverty Act, ditched the Child Poverty Unit, walked away from the targets to reduce and eventually eradicate child poverty, closed 1,000 Sure Start centres and plunged 700,000 more children into poverty before the pandemic.

The situation today is worse than when I was growing up. Kids in poverty today aren’t in council flats, they’re moving between temporary accommodation. Food banks have become a fixture of British society.

As more children fall into poverty under the Tories, the cost to our economy goes up. On Boris Johnson’s watch, the cost of child poverty has soared to £38bn a year in lost income, unpaid taxes, and higher spending on public services. Wasted money and wasted lives.

Children in poverty aren’t less talented than their wealthier peers, but a lack of opportunity holds them back. Participation in extracurricular activities is falling in state schools, meaning fewer primary school-aged children have the chance to do sports, drama, or music. The least well-off children are three times more likely to do no extra-curricular activities at all.

Labour won’t accept this poverty of ambition for our children. We will ensure that children are no longer confined to the Tories’ poverty trap, and guarantee opportunity for all.

The next Labour government will once again make lifting children out of poverty a national priority, setting up a Child Poverty Reduction Unit in Keir Starmer’s Number 10.

We would ease the pressures on families by abolishing VAT on household energy bills throughout the winter, ensuring better pay and security at work, and replacing Universal Credit with a fairer social security system.

Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan will ensure every child can catch-up on the learning and social activities they missed out on over the pandemic, so no child is left behind.

And our “Ten By Ten” ambition is for all children to have the opportunity to do 10 eye-opening activities by the time they’re 10. That includes learning to ride a bike and swim, playing a musical instrument, trips to the seaside and the countryside, and visiting our nation’s museums and galleries. Experiences that set them up well for learning and for life. 

Only Labour can make Britain the best country to grow up in.


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