Government must draw on lessons from abroad to tackle child poverty

  • 15/02/2013



Government must draw on lessons from abroad to tackle child poverty

In a report published today, leading children's charity the National Children's Bureau (NCB) is calling on government to urgently review its approach to reducing child poverty by drawing on lessons from abroad.

'Tackling child poverty and promoting children's well-being: lessons from abroad' suggests a number of solutions from other countries for lifting children out of the poverty trap, including:

  • making child care more affordable for working mothers
  • offering cash incentives for families to promote children's health and well-being
  • introducing neighbourhood anti-poverty zones
  • establishing a ministerial child poverty board to drive forward action across government.

Bringing childcare costs within the reach of low-income families, and encouraging mothers into employment, is key to the approach of countries like Denmark, where 84 per cent of mothers with children under the age of 16 work, compared to just 67 per cent in the UK[1]. To make childcare more affordable, the government should consider increasing the number of hours of free early education available, raising the proportion of childcare costs covered by tax credits and Universal Credit, and reviewing how after school care could be made more readily available.

Supplementing families' incomes for engaging in activities that promote child health and well-being is another measure which has contributed to tackling child poverty. A scheme in New York has shown how by providing families with additional cash on top of existing benefits or tax credits, the government could increase families' financial resources while encouraging the use of health services and regular school attendance.

As well as tackling poverty at the individual and family level, government must also develop a community-based approach that recognises that poverty is concentrated in specific geographic areas. A broad range of actions must be taken at the community level to provide better economic opportunities, housing, infrastructure, community safety and local services. To promote this approach, government should fund local authorities to create a number of neighbourhood-based Anti-Poverty Innovation Zones, as a means of bringing together the full range of agencies and services that promote children's well-being, and developing community approaches to tackling child poverty.

Over arching this work, the government should set up a single body to drive forward the delivery of its child poverty strategy across government departments. To be effective, a single central government delivery board, made up of ministers and supported by senior civil servants, should have the power and authority to hold government departments to account as they introduce measures to tackle child poverty.

Enver Solomon, Director of Evidence and Impact at NCB said: 'If the government's commitment to eradicate child poverty by 2020 is to be met, it needs to think more creatively and examine initiatives in other countries. By drawing on approaches from abroad and applying them in the UK, we can not only improve the finances of poorer families, but we can encourage them to engage with services that bring real improvements to health and well-being so increasing their resilience.'

'Government must focus less on how to measure poverty and act decisively to introduce robust mechanisms for ensuring that progress in the fight against child poverty is swift and permanent. Critical to this is making childcare affordable for low income families and overall taking a far more strategic cross government approach that is driven by a powerful ministerial board.'

'Tackling child poverty and promoting children's well-being: lessons from abroad' is available at:

For more information, please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office for on 0207 843 6047 or email For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.

Notes to Editors

About the National Children's Bureau
The National Children's Bureau is a leading children's charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. Working with children, and for children, we strive to reduce the impact of inequalities by influencing government using our extensive research and expertise, being the voice for front-line practitioners, and inspiring creative solutions on issues including health, education and care. Every year we reach more than 100,000 children and young people through our membership scheme, links with voluntary, statutory and private organisations, and the 30 specialist membership programmes that we host.

For more information visit


[1] Data available from: