Sunday 29 March 2009

Why The Economic Malaise Can Help Child Poverty

On a bright and sunny morning this occasional NextLeft Blogger felt even more sunny when reading The Observer head-line Darling To give Budget Cash Boost to Poorest. This is a Fabian birthday present with candles, cake and balloons twice over. On reading the article it wasn’t quite as exciting as the head-line implied, because the decision has yet to be made. But, over 100 MPs have signed an open letter calling for the Government to renew their child-poverty targets following the decision to enshrine this commitment in law. This may hardly seem ground-breaking given the Government’s past pledges on child-poverty, but what is very encouraging is the timing before the budget and the number of high-profile signatories’ which is a vital indicator that it will probably happen. The letter specifically mentions that it makes economic sense as a fiscal stimulus because the poor are more likely to plough the money back into the economy. Such arguments would not have been aired so widely half a year ago. Apparently Darling is seriously considering a bold move which will give money to the poor in some form in the next budget, which is even better news.

The current economic situation has strengthened such calls and at last made the case for re-distribution stronger in political terms. Crucially, re-distribution is an argument which Labour now really feels they can present to the country (I hope I am not being naively optimistic), as long advocated by extensive Fabian research on child poverty by Louise Bamfield and others. The Government will, of course, argue for re-distribution in terms of child-poverty, because this is an issue in which everyone can agree upon: nobody can argue that a child deserves to be in poverty, even though this case is so often made about adults nowadays (the deserving poor with parallels to the Poor Law) and is sadly barely ever challenged. If child poverty is reduced it goes without saying that all poverty will be reduced because children exist within family/social structures, and you cannot improve the quality of life for a baby without improving the quality of life for families as a whole . Therefore, the child poverty campaign can be seen as a tactical way of reducing poverty within society without spelling it out in such terms. If the current economic malaise makes it possible to present social re-distribution, perhaps it is a blessing in disguise in the long-run.

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