The number of children living in relative poverty rose by 100,000 to 3.9 million in the year 2006-7, according to figures released by the government this week.
This is the second year in a row that child poverty has risen. It shows that New Labour is failing in its flagship promise to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it altogether by 2020.
The figures should have been released in March, but they were delayed until after the local elections in May and then postponed again.
“It’s a moral disgrace that we still have one of the worst child poverty records in Europe,” said Kate Green of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).
Last year Gordon Brown put forward his strategy for cutting child poverty. “The key to the future is how many people you can get into work,” he said. “That’s the bigger contribution to tackling child poverty.”
Yet the government’s own figures show that around half of children living in poverty have at least one parent at work. Low pay is the problem, not any reluctance to work on the part of parents.
Now Brown is imposing a pay freeze on six million public sector workers and presiding over a situation where millions more are seeing living standards cut as the cost of food and fuel soars.
But not everyone is suffering. The wealth of the thousand richest people in Britain rose by almost 15 percent last year.
Despite the credit crunch, bankers and financial traders were given £12.6 billion in bonuses in the first three months of this year – up more than £500 million from last year’s record.
The CPAG estimates that an investment of just £3 billion would be enough to meet the government’s goal of halving child poverty by 2010.
Yet so far the government has refused to do this, preferring to pander to the rich rather than implement policies that benefit those who elected it.
Meanwhile a United Nations (UN) report this week found that children and young people in Britain were suffering from abuse and infringements of their basic human rights.
It cited Britain’s high rates of child poverty and accused the government of “serious violations” of the UN convention on the rights of the child.
Britain detains more underage offenders than any country in western Europe. The UN report highlighted the barbaric treatment doled out to children imprisoned in secure units and young offender institutions.
It found that “forcible restraint techniques” had been used on 7,020 occasions between January 2004 and September 2005, often causing injury. In 2004 two children died after being subjected to restraint.
The detention of child asylum seekers and use of plastic batons on children in Northern Ireland were two other serious violations of children’s rights that were highlighted in the report.