Labour must not forget the economic costs of child poverty

June 7th, 2013

Published on Labour List, by Alison Garnham, June 5, 2013.

As the Chancellor prepares the ground for this month’s spending review and Labour starts to provide more detail on its spending approach for 2015, the three main political parties sometimes sound as if they believe social justice and economic efficiency are mutually exclusive. That the toughest of all tough choices is choosing between the head and the heart.  

As new research released today shows, that’s just not true. Ending child poverty is a head and a heart argument.

Building on previous work undertaken for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2008, academic Donald Hirsch estimates that current levels of child poverty cost the UK at least £29 billion, or the equivalent of almost 2.5 per cent of GDP, a year.

This figure is composed of two elements. First, it reflects the costs of interventions required to correct for the effects of poverty in the here and now. We know that poverty damages childhoods and therefore as a country, we have to spend extra as a result. Additional social services, criminal justice programmes and educational support are all required to mitigate the worst effects of deprivation. This new estimate places the current cost of this type of spending at £15 billion a year.

Second, the estimate also captures the losses that stem from the fact that growing up in poverty affects life chances. With their poorer educational and health outcomes, many adults who grow up in poverty fail to meet their full potential in later life … //

… The reductions in child poverty achieved between 1999 and 2010 should warm the heart of anyone who cares about poverty: lifting over 1 million children out of poverty in little more than a decade has few, if any precedents either over time or across comparable wealthy countries.  So it would be a genuine tragedy if this enormous achievement was undone because the evidence on the economic price we all pay for child poverty is ignored.
(full text and links to related posts).


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