Siobhain McDonagh

Government criticised for response to child poverty debate

South west London MPs expressed disappointment at a government minister’s ‘complacent’ speech during a parliamentary debate on child poverty last week.

Labour MP, Siobhain McDonagh, secured the debate in parliament on Thursday after shocking statistics published by  End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC) found 700,000 (37%) children in London live below the poverty line.

During the debate, Ms McDonagh argued the Government should no longer attribute poverty to unemployment, as ECPC found 67% of children in poverty live in a household where one parent works.

The Labour MP noted rising inflation, falling real wages, frozen benefits and the cost of childcare means work cannot guarantee a route out of poverty.

After the debate, she said: “I wholeheartedly believe that work should pay.

“Despite the Minister’s assurances, I see week in week out that this is currently not the case.

“Two-thirds of children in poverty live in working households that cannot afford school uniform, a hot meal at home or, for many, a permanent place to call home, its high time this Government took action.”

Kingston and Surbiton MP Ed Davey also spoke during the debate on Kingston’s external perception of being very wealthy creating a disadvantage for those in the pockets of the borough really suffering.

In Kingston and Surbiton, 5816 (23.9%) children are living in poverty according to ECPC’s study.

Following the debate, the Liberal Democrat MP said: “I was not happy with Minister’s speech, it was complacent.”

On the lack of Conservative MPs present, he added:  “When you think how many Conservatives there are in London you think they would have turned out in full force.

“London was the most anti-Brexit and as the Tories are pursuing it and continue with this disaster, they are forgetting the basic things like child poverty.”

Ms McDonagh’s response also criticised the parliamentary under-secretary of state for work and pensions Kit Malthouse’s summary speech.

In his speech, the government minister said: “I was disappointed to hear the Hon. Lady say, as I think she did on the record, that work is no longer the route out of poverty.

“The Government believe that work offers families the best opportunity to get out of poverty and become self-reliant.”

He added: “In 2014-15, 75% of children in workless families failed to reach the expected standard at GCSE, compared with 39% for all working families and 52% for low-income working families.”

The number of children in poverty in Mitcham and Morden is 8598 (31.7%), 6018 (32.7%) in Putney, 3940 (26.3%) in Chelsea and Fullham, and 2892 (15.5%) in Wimbledon.

ECPC have produced an interactive map of the UK to illustrate the number of children living poverty.

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