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Government admits to abolishing child poverty unit

The specialist child poverty unit (CPU) within the Civil Service has been abolished, it has emerged.

In response to a written question by Dan Jarvis, the MP for Barnsley Central, Damian Hinds, the work and pensions minister, said that the CPU’s main function had been to support ministers in fulfilling the income-related targets in the Child Poverty Act 2010.

Hinds added that “following the repeal of those targets, responsibility for child poverty policy and analysis transferred to the DWP”.  But the Social Mobility Commission Secretariat continues to be based in the Department for Education and the Secretary of State for Education is the lead Minister for the Commission.

Jarvis argued that when the prime minister stood on the steps of Downing Street, she promised to “fight the burning injustice of being born poor and lead a government that worked for everyone”.

“Having a country that works for everyone requires a government prepared to both help those who fall behind and stop people being disadvantaged from the outset,” he stated. “Theresa May has no unit, no target and no intention of eliminating child poverty.”

Answering another written question by Jarvis in November, Hinds said that the number of CPU staff had been cut from 24 in 2012-13 to 11 this year.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “A move to restrict the unit to just one department would be worrying and could potentially downgrade the unit’s status and weaken its reach, influence and effectiveness right across government.”

The move to abolish the CPU comes despite figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing that the rate of child poverty in working families has risen from 19% to 21% between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Jarvis has secured a House of Commons debate on child poverty today and introduced the Child Poverty in the UK (Target for Reduction) Bill 2016-17, which will have its second reading in February.

Another written question by Jarvis recently revealed that the rate of closures for Sure Start children’s centres almost doubled in the past year.

Abolishing the CPU is the latest controversial rearrangement from Theresa May’s government. One of her first actions as prime minister was to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are absolutely committed to tackling poverty and in the new year we will publish a social justice paper outlining our plans for the years ahead.

“Work is the best way out of poverty and there are record levels of low unemployment. By increasing the national living wage and taking millions of people out of paying any income tax, we are ensuring it always pays to be in work.”

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