In 1999, Tony Blair announced that his party would abolish child poverty by 2020. And as radical and implausible as it seemed at the time, I believed he meant it. He probably believed it himself. But almost ten years later the government has admitted that it looks likely to fall way short of meeting its 2010 halfway target. Ok, it was Tony who made this heroic pledge on behalf of his party and he is now long gone, but his replacement, the then chancellor, supported this gesture and I have to give it to Gordon Brown because he did try to deliver the goods and by many accounts, he made some good progress.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, after publishing its shocking 2006 study results, said that the government would need to put in around £4 billion a year in order to reach the halfway target. But as we now know, the current state of public finances won’t allow for such an amount. So, although our dear government can afford to replace Trident at a whopping £65 billion over thirty years, it won’t meet its 2010 child poverty target (and the Tories can jolly well shut their mouths on this because figures rose sharply under their governance too).
Child poverty carries costs to our society on many different levels.
The most basic is in making us feel uneasy as a community – collectively, we are unhappy to live in a country where most children have plenty but some go to school hungry, go to bed cold or are ashamed to ask their friends back to their homes.
It identified three types of costs and their longer-term impacts. . .
public unease, social dysfunction and the cost of remedial services – all apply not just to the initial consequences of poverty on children as they grow up, but also to longer-term impacts on their lives.
The report investigated whether the costs of allowing child poverty to exist outweighed the costs of ending it. It concluded that . . .
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s estimate of the cost of ending child poverty by 2020 will show the scale of such an investment; this paper has suggested that a high return could justify what might otherwise appear an unaffordable outlay.
So Mr. Darling, how much more practical and economically viable (and kinder) would it have been for you to re-route that Trident money . . . and all the money you are spending on occupying Middle Eastern countries, and invest it in our children, once and for all ending the despicably immoral affliction of child poverty in one of the richest countries in the world?