While normally benefit should rise in line with inflation, Labour MP Frank Field has proposed improving public services instead of boosting the material income of poor families, in order to “prevent poor children from becoming poor adults”.
Mr Field has admitted his switch from lifting people above the poverty line will prove controversial, but has maintained the proposals would improve job prospects of disadvantaged children, therbey redistributing income.
The anti-poverty tsar’s report calls for action to start even before children are born, with the provision of improved ante-natal and parenting classes. Mr Field has placed particular emphasis on the 0-5 age group, aiming to put children at this stage on an equal footing before they start school. He has argued that the policy’s drive must focus on children from the time they are in the womb, as beyond these Foundation Years it is already too late to ensure decent life chances for the child.
The report also anticipates an additional £37bn a year on tax credits in order to cut child poverty down to 5%.
Mr Field’s stance echoes that of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who in a recent lecture maintained that addressing poverty was not just about “more money”, but also “the quality of the local schools, access to good health services and fear of crime”.