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Sam Royston: The Government has made a great decision in seeking to understand poverty better

Sam Royston is Poverty and Early Years Adviser at The Children's Society.

Screen shot 2012-11-15 at 12.23.08This morning the Government launched its consultation on measuring child poverty at an event we co-hosted with Lewisham local authority.

The Government made a great decision when it decided to hold this consultation. It is a valuable opportunity to establish a comprehensive understanding of all of the factors pushing millions of children in the UK into poverty – and a real chance to have an open debate about what we can do about it.

The heart of child poverty is low income, and we must never forget the impact that this has on the lives of children. We know that both working and non-working families in this country are forced to make difficult choices – between heating the house and buying a winter coat or between repairing a boiler and putting a healthy meal on the table.

So money really matters, and we are delighted that the Government has reiterated its continued commitment to meeting the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010. But if we really want to help children out of poverty, looking at income on its own is not enough. We know from our work with children and families across the country that child poverty is about so much more than just low income.

Developing a wider understanding of poverty – which looks at the real impact it has on the lives of children – will help us better understand the root causes of poverty and how we can lift millions of children out of poverty for good.

For children and families, poverty is about being trapped in run-down and cramped housing, about “food deserts” where whole communities can’t buy fresh and healthy food at an affordable price, and about a lack of access to high quality health services and education. It’s about children growing up without the skills they need to make the move into adulthood and into work.

All of these things contribute to the lived experience of poverty. All of these things need solutions which addresses more than simply a lack of cash.To address these issues, we need to understand them. This is why we are pleased that the Government is trying to improve its understanding child poverty in this country. Any attempt not just to measure the visible symptoms of poverty, but to expose its deepest roots, should be welcomed.

What the children and families we work with need though, is for this broader understanding of child poverty to make a real change in their lives.  The Government will be judged on its ability to translate child poverty measures into real action. So we look forward to working closely with the government on how we can develop both the breadth and the depth of our understanding of child poverty.  But perhaps most of all, we look forward to working with the government to put in place policies and programmes that will end child poverty, and ensure that every child has the good childhood they deserve.

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