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In March 1999 Tony Blair announced a commitment to “eradicate” child poverty in the United Kingdom by 2020. Gordon Brown announced Labour’s intention to enshrine in law the 2020 child poverty target in a speech to the Labour Party Conference on 23 September 2008.

The Child Poverty Act 2010, which received Royal Assent in March 2010, fulfilled the commitment to enshrine the child poverty target in legislation. It established four separate child poverty targets to be met by 2020/21, requires the UK Government to publish a regular UK child poverty strategy, requires the Scottish and Northern Irish Ministers to publish child poverty strategies, paved the way for a Child Poverty Commission to provide advice, requires the UK Government to publish annual progress reports, and places new duties on local authorities and other “delivery partners” in England to work together to tackle child poverty.

The Child Poverty Bill received cross-party support but the Conservatives argued that the child poverty targets should focus on the underlying causes of poverty.

The current Government amended the 2010 Act to expand the remit of the Commission to also provide advice on, and monitor progress towards improving, social mobility. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, chaired by Alan Milburn, published its first annual State of the Nation report in October 2013. It concluded that the 2020 child poverty target was likely to be missed by a considerable margin, and that progress on social mobility could be undermined by the twin problems of youth unemployment and falling living standards.

Following a consultation, the Government published its second Child Poverty Strategy, covering the period 2014-2017, on 26 June 2014. The strategy sets out measures to tackle the “root causes” of child poverty by supporting families into work and increasing their earnings, improving living standards and raising the educational outcomes of poor children.

The Government believes that there is a need for a revised set of child poverty measures that better reflects the evidence about the underlying causes of poverty, but has not yet set out alternative measures. In the meantime, it remains committed to the existing targets and on 26 June 2014 published a consultation paper on setting a target for “persistent” child poverty. New statistics on child poverty were released by DWP on 1 July 2014.

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