Ten years ago Britain had the worst record on child poverty of any major European nation.
At the time the numbers living in poverty had soared over the previous two decades.
Since then the trend has been reversed.
According to a new report from the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee there are now around 2.8 million children living in poverty. This is down from 3.4 million in 1999 when Tony Blair announced a plan to halve child poverty by 2010.
But the new figures show the Government is well off target to reach its overall aim of eradicating child poverty completely by 2020.
The committee reported: “There is a mass of evidence…that poor children have constrained lives, poorer health, worse diets, colder and more dilapidated housing conditions, higher risks of accidents and injuries, experience more physical abuse and more bullying and have less access to childcare. They also do less well at school, and their outcomes in terms of skills and employment are worse.”
So what’s the situation in Wales?
Welsh Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott, who is a member of the select committee, says: “There are still around 140,000 children in Wales living in poverty.
“Poverty is particularly high amongst children of lone parents and disabled parents and within ethnic minorities.”
One-in-five families with a disabled child are so hard up they cut back on food.
The issues behind poverty are complicated but one thing the committee’s report throws up is public attitude.
There’s a perception that because our country is economically stable that there is no excuse for poverty.
Sympathy for the poor, the committee notes grimly, is at a “low level”.
And as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported recently the public are a “long way from supporting an anti-poverty agenda in the UK”.
Quite astonishing, but that is Britain in 2008. Nearly three million children in poverty – and a large number of us don’t particularly care.
Another Commons’ committee has highlighted the “serious mismanagement” of a compensation scheme for sick miners.
In 1998 a court ruled that the British Coal Corporation – therefore the Government – was liable for lung disease caused by coal dust and hand injuries relating to the use of vibrating equipment.
Over 10 years the Government has settled 650,000 claims, leaving 128,000 outstanding.
Lawyers loved the scheme.
While ex-miners have received £4.1bn in compo, solicitors and administrators have received £2.3bn for handling the claims.
Solicitors have now been ordered to pay back millions.
Labour MP for Islwyn Don Touhig has highlighted the case of one miner given just 50p in compensation.
The miner in question was marked down because he was a smoker who only worked underground for two years.
The lawyers who handled his claim, though, still rubbed their hands.
A root through the report reveals their pay for handling the 50p payment came in at £1,974.
::Big Issue Cymru, March 10-16, 2008
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