Wednesday 6 February 2008

Child poverty under Labour - action needed, not words

Sorry for falling off the blogging wagon there - I've been pretty busy with things both political and personal. Wedding planning is finally getting underway; there may even be a date by the end of the week!

I read an article recently in the Herald about child poverty under Labour. While they promised to eradicate child poverty in 1997, this is still very far from being achieved. What annoys me most is that Labour politician in Glasgow still pretend to care about this. If they really cared, then surely they'd be taking action, opposing the obscene sums of money wasted on war and nuclear weapons. Instead, they tinker with the tax system and they wring their hands.

Committee chairman Mohammad Sarwar, Labour MP for Glasgow Central, said: "The cycle of deprivation must be broken if we want to reduce child poverty.

"While we are pleased that some progress has been made in the past 10 years, much more must be done. There are 250,000 children still living in poverty in Scotland today so action is urgently needed."

Livingston MP Jim Devine spoke of constituents holding down jobs in a hairdresser or filling station who were still unable to put food on the table, saying it was scandalous that anyone in employment remained in poverty.

Mohammad Sarwar has been an MP since 1997, Jim Devine only since 2005. I'm sure they mean well. Urgent action, however, leads you to think of something far faster than ten years.

There are lots of things that can and should be done to end child poverty (Save the Children campaign on many of them). Some things could be changed right now - to take an example from the article, equalising the minimum wage (already a policy held by the SNP). Age discrimination is accepted by most reasonable people to be wrong, yet the UK Government continues to stagger the minimum wage for young people. These are the current rates:
  • £5.52 per hour for workers aged 22 years and older
  • A development rate of £4.60 per hour for workers aged 18-21 inclusive
  • £3.40 per hour for all workers under the age of 18, who are no longer of compulsory school age.
The difference between £5.52 and £3.40 is massive. Why would someone under 18 - who may have left school and have children - go out to work for the minimum wage (and pay for childcare while they're at work) when they could bring more money into the household by staying on benefits? Where is the incentive to work, when someone doing the same job as you is being paid more than £2 an hour more? I have never understood why this should be so; I wonder whether any Labourites out there can tell me.

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