High Court rules Government acted unlawfully in production of its child poverty strategy

Published on: 
17 July 2012

The Government acted unlawfully in its failure to establish a Child Poverty Commission to advise on its child poverty strategy, the High Court has ruled today in a successful judicial review brought by Child Poverty Action Group.

The Judge also said that the Government’s refusal to say what difference its child poverty strategy will have on child poverty levels was not something the courts can adjudicate on.

All the main political parties supported the Child Poverty Act (2010) which made ending child poverty by 2020 a legally binding target. The Act requires the Government to publish a national strategy every three years. The Act made clear that a national strategy must describe the progress needed in its three year lifetime so that the 2020 child poverty targets are met.

The latest child poverty figures (for 2010-11) show that child poverty is at a 30 year low with 2.3 million children in poverty (before housing costs). The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns this progress will be reversed and that child poverty levels are likely to rise by 400,000 by 2015, and by 800,000 by 2020, as a result of the Government’s tax and welfare changes.

Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said:

“We welcome the High Court’s decision that the Government has acted unlawfully. With child poverty expected to rise sharply in the coming years as a result of government policies, the weakness of the Government’s current child poverty strategy is absolutely clear to everyone.

“There’s no doubt that had a strategy been produced with the input of an expert Child Poverty Commission, as ministers had initially promised, then some of the weaknesses in the document would have been avoided.

“We will now be writing to ministers to call for the new Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission to subject the current child poverty strategy to expert review as soon as it is up and running in the Autumn.

“The Child Poverty Act was passed two years ago with support from every one of the main parties. We believe it is essential that this and future governments take an evidence-based approach to tackling poverty and are upfront about what difference their policies will make to child poverty numbers – if ministers know their child poverty strategy is going to increase, not reduce, poverty then they need to say so.”

Notes to Editors

Legal Challenge

Child Poverty Action Group is pursuing a judicial review with regard to the Child Poverty Act (2010), which was supported by the main political parties:

• Section 9(1): duty to lay before parliament a UK child poverty strategy.

• Section 9(7): duty that the strategy must describe the progress that needs to be made at the end of the period to which the strategy applies.

Our arguments and reasons for making the challenge, in summary, are:

• 1. To get a declaration from the court that the government did not meet the legal timetable establishing a Child Poverty Commission and for publishing a strategy as described in the Act. This matters because the establishment of a Commission has now been delayed for over a year and we believe that the document published is much weaker for not having been produced with advice from an expert Commission.

• 2. To require the government to state how much progress must be made towards the four targets given in sections 3 to 6 of the Act over the strategy period. The government gave no information on the progress it believes is needed for the targets. To reach the targets the government must make significant average annual progress – for example on the relative low income target, there would need to be an average reduction of around 150,000 children in each year to 2020. However the IFS predict that over the period of the strategy, there will be an annual average rise of around 100,000 children.

• CPAG was successful on point 1 only.

Further info

• For up-to-date background facts and stats on UK poverty, visit: http://www.cpag.org.uk

• CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.

• CPAG is the host organisation for the End Child Poverty coalition, which has over 150 member organisations and is campaigning for public and political commitment to ensure the goal of ending child poverty by 2020 is met.

For further information please contact:

Imran Hussain

Head of Policy, Rights & Advocacy, CPAG

Tel. 020 7812 5237 or 07983402283

[email protected]