• September 25, 2011

A reply has been received from a (UK) Government Department to an enquiry sent to Prime Minister David Cameron by a four year old girl from Cornwall.

The enquiry from four year old Olwen was sent to the Prime Minister earlier this month by her father, who asked Mr Cameron if he could explain to his daughter
why there were so many people in the area of Cornwall where they lived who were living below the poverty line and struggling to feed themselves. Olwen’s enquiry was referred to the (UK) Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to deal with in what is perhaps indicative of the way that some political leaders attempt to brush off genuine concern expressed by the public, even if it is an innocent question from a young child about her local community.

Rather than allay the fears expressed by Olwen in a human way, the DWP opted for bland rhetoric and Government strategies, which will have little meaning for a 4 year old who does not want to see pregnant women having to go to a food bank for handouts to survive.

The full text of the letter is set out below.

“Department for Work and Pensions


16 Septemeber 2011

Dear Mr/s Tal-e-bot

Thank you for your recent correspondence about child poverty, which you wrote on behalf of your daughter. As an official working in the Child Poverty Unit your
correspondence has been referred to me for reply. Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and they are unable to respond personally on
every occasion. As your letter falls within the remit of this Department, we have been asked to respond.

The Government shares your and your daughter’s frustration at children living in poveryy and agrees that it is simply unacceptable that, in one of the most
developed countries in the world, children have their lives blighted by deprivation.

The Government is firmly committed to eradicating child poverty and published its strategy to tackle it on 5 April this year: `A New Approach to Child Poverty: Tackling the Cause of Disadvantage and Transforming Lives’, which is available online at:


The strategy underpins the Government’s ambition for every child to realise their potential and reflects its belief that reducing poverty is about more than
lifting families income above an arbitrary line. It demonstrates that the Government is making a sustained, long term attempt to lift people out of not
only income poverty, but poverty of aspiration and poverty of outcomes. At its heart are the principles of work, fairness, responsibility and support for the most vulnerable.

The child poverty strategy sets out how the government will tackle the causes of poverty such as worklessness, educational failure, debt, poor health and family
breakdown, thereby raising the life chances of poorer children and breaking the cycle of entrenched intergenerational poverty.

The Government recognises that the most sustainable way to reduce child poverty is through parents working. This is why the Government’s Welfare Reform
programme will remove disincentives to work from within the tax and benefits system so that those parents who opt for work are rewarded. It will ensure that
parents who are currently unemployed will be able to take advantage of a range of new services such as the Work Programme, which will provide them with help to address their own particular needs and overcome their specific barriers to work.

The introduction of Universal Credit to replace existing out of work benefits will simplify the benefits system and make it easier for people to access. It will also improve work incentives by allowing individuals to keep more of their income as they move into work and by introducing a smoother and more transparent
reduction of benefits when they increase their earnings.

The child poverty strategy was informed by responses to the Government’s consultation and by independent reviews of poverty and life chances and early
intervention by Frank Field MP and Graham Allen MP respectively. In response to this the Government has introduced a new overall package of support for
disadvantaged children an d young people. The Fairness Premium, worth £7.2 billion, is designed to improve the outcomes and life chance sof pupils during
the early years and at every stage of their education. The Government also published `Supporting Families in the Early Years’ on 18 July 2011 setting out
its vision for the services that should be on offer for parents and families in he foundation years, from pregnancy to five.

The Government has also allocated £2.2 billion (2011 – 12) and £2.3 billion (2012 – 13) in England to fund universal programmes and activities to all children, young people and families via the Early Intervention Grant (EIG) and believes Local Authorities, who have a comprehensive understanding of child poverty in their area, are best placed to determine the most effective use for this money.

The Child Poverty Strategy recognised the drivers of child poverty can be complex and particular to an area, such as rural locations with dispersed population. That is why the Child Poverty Act sets out duties for every Local Authority to publish a local child poverty needs assessment and strategy. Cornwall’s child poverty needs assessment can be found at cornwall.gov.uk.

To support local authorities, in meeting their duties under the Child Poverty Act, the Government is working with them to develop ways of pooling budget’s and
commissioning and delivering services through initiatives such as Community Budgets, Social Return on Investment and Payment by Results. The Child Poverty
Unit and those working to support local areas in tackling child poverty, for example, the Local Governance Group, The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes and
Save the Children, have also developed a core offer of support to help local areas embed evidence based approaches that work best in eradicating child poverty.

This demonstrates the importance the Government places on tacking child poverty, equipping children to make the most of their potential and addressing some of
the problems they face. I hope you can use this information to reassure your daughter that the Government is determined to eradicate child poverty and taking the steps necessary to do so.

Ministers do welcome all views, and I would like to thank you for your comments. Should you wish to find out more about our proposed reforms, or about Government services, information can be found through the internet at www.direct.gov.uk.

Yours sincerely”

For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:

Rhisiart Tal-e-bot, General Secretary, Celtic League:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666


The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.



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