Special unit to help meet child poverty target

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LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) The government is due to step up its attempt to halve child poverty by 2010 with the launch of a dedicated unit today and a drive to get single parents back into work.

About 600,000 children have been lifted above the poverty line during the past 10 years, but a further one million need to be helped if the government is to meet its target of halving child poverty between 1999 and 2010.

The Child Poverty Unit will be run by officials from two government departments who will consult with the children's charity Barnardo's.

It will focus on getting the parents of poor children into work, and improving the health and education of less well-off youngsters.

The government has been criticised by some analysts for relying on expenditure, mainly on benefits and tax credits, to achieve progress so far.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said at least another 3.5 billion pounds a year would have to be spent to meet the 2010 target.

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain told BBC radio the government was determined to reach its ''stiff target'' of halving child poverty by 2010 and eradicating it by 2020.

''People will say that children are not living in the absolute deprivation they were in generations past. But compared with others and their peers in the playground and the classroom, they are.

''That is the target we have set ourselves, and it is a stiff one, but we are determined to halve it by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.'' The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Children, Schools and Families will work with the Treasury, local government and other government agencies to provide a single point of contact on child poverty issues.

A major part of the plan, to be announced by ministers at a conference organised by Barnardo's, will be to get single parents back into work.

But Hain told BBC Radio Five Live ''this will not be a forced regime where, regardless of circumstances, you have to work'', but will take into consideration factors such as childcare facilities.

REUTERS SKB RK1606

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