Intended for healthcare professionals


Eradicating child poverty

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 24 July 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:203

A serious aim of the British government that doctors must support

  1. Richard Smith, editor
  1. BMJ

    Britain has more children living in poverty than any other country in the European Union. But, to its credit, the government is determined to eradicate child poverty, described by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as “a scar on the soul of Britain.” The prime minister has set an ambitious target, even more ambitious perhaps than trying to achieve peace in Northern Ireland: “Our historic aim,” he says, “will be for ours to be the first generation to end child poverty.”

    Last week the Chancellor and Alistair Darling, secretary of state for social security, called a meeting in Downing Street to discuss eradicating child poverty. “Many important meetings have been held in this room,” the Chancellor began, “but none more important than this.” Cynics might say that this was the Labour government trying to reassert some old Labour values after doing poorly in the European elections, but an academic at the meeting pointed out that in 25 years' studying child poverty this was the first time he had been invited to discuss the subject with the Chancellor. The recent BMA report on growing up in Britain reminded readers that “The Chancellor has a much greater impact on health than the secretary of state for health, a thought that may well not cross the minds of either.”1 It seems to have crossed the mind of this chancellor.

    The task is huge. One in three …

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