The news from across the pond today is that the UK government is announcing that it will miss its target set in 1999 to reduce the number of children in poverty by 1 million. According to the BBC, “Department for Work and Pension figures show the number of children in poverty has fallen by 700,000 since 1999, missing the target by 300,000.”
This has resulted in the typical responses when government programs fail: calls to “redouble” efforts and to increase funding, spin the results as a measure of success, and acknowledge that there is “still much to be done.”
But one member of the government seems to have an idea of the right solution. “The Conservatives’ David Ruffley, spokesman on welfare reform, said it was ‘disappointing’. He said his party agreed on the aim but not the means of reducing child poverty.”
“Child poverty is a scourge in society. And the numbers are too high. But what I think needs to be done is more creative and imaginative thinking,” he said.
Government should not be at the front lines of the fight against poverty for one simple reason: it does not create wealth. Entrepreneurs and commercial enterprises do. And as such government certainly should not be the only element in combatting poverty.
David Laws MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, gets at the heart of the issue when he says, “It is no surprise the Government is failing to deliver when the CSA is in chaos, tax credits are a mess and our lone parents employment rate is one of the lowest in Europe” (emphasis added).
That final point is crucial. Unless the government is going to create jobs for these parents in one of its many departments and bureaus, it falls to businesses to employ them. This is how it should be, of course, and any responsible poverty fighting strategy needs to reckon with this reality.