Child Poverty, Equal Rights

Last week in the Parliament, MEPs invited experts to discuss “Combating Child Poverty in the EU”. Whilst I acknowledge that child poverty is often best tackled at a local level, as the speakers rightly pointed out, a co-ordinated approach from EU policy makers through to practitioners at the grass-roots is needed.

As a member of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, what struck me was the significant impact of parents’ employment status on not only a childs’ risk of living in poverty but on their wider well-being. In the UK, for example, a child is five times more likely to be living in poverty if their lone parent is not in work.

To break the vicious cycle of poverty within families and communities, it is essential to provide employment opportunities for parents that offer flexible working patterns along with accessible and affordable high quality childcare.

I have and will continue to campaign for gender equality within the workplace. Equality of opportunity, however, should not start upon entrance to the labour market, or indeed into education, it should start from the day a child is born.

Parental rights and responsibilities are key in giving children the best start in life and I will be advocating their importance in the breadth of policies considered in my Committee work.


Budget, Child Poverty

The days when the budget was one of the highlights of the parliamentary year attracting huge news coverage and whipping up strong emotions are long gone. Today the budget is one event among many, but no less important for that. Alistair Darling did a good job yesterday, declaring: “Even in today’s difficult and uncertain times, we are determined that we will not be diverted from our long-term aim: to equip our country for the challenges of the future, confront climate change and end child poverty in this generation.”

The £1.7 billion package to lift a further 250,000 out of child poverty is extremely good news. The higher vehicle excise duty for higher carbon emissions, the 10% increase in air passenger duty and the plan to make all non-essential buildings carbon neutral by 2019 are significant proposals to tackle climate change. Equally important was the £575 million for higher winter fuel payments for pensioners. The little reported lifeline to registered charities allowing them to keep the current rates of tax relief on Gift Aid donations also showed the Government’s commitment to improving life for everyone in this country.

I have no problem with the extra 4p on a pint of beer, 14p on a bottle of wine and 55p on a bottle of spirits, which strike me as a good way of raising revenue. All in all it as the budget we need at the moment – prudent and equitable making sound financial sense.