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The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of child poverty

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Summary

Background and objective for the audit

The objective of this audit has been to assess to what extent state measures and initiatives implemented in the municipalities help reduce the consequences of poverty among children and young people. The audit covers the 2002–2013 period.

The background for the audit is that the Storting repeatedly has expressed a need to strengthen efforts to reduce child poverty. The Storting has pointed out that child poverty in Norway is largely about children feeling excluded from social events due to their families’ economic situation. There have been several action plans and initiatives to combat poverty since 2002, but the percentage of children in low-income families has risen during the same period. This has increased the need for policy instruments to help economically disadvantaged children and young people.

Findings and recommendations

Findings:

  • More children are growing up in low-income families.
  • Many municipalities do too little to help poor children participate in social events.
  • State efforts to reduce the consequences of poverty among children and young people are not sufficiently coordinated.
  • Children’s needs are not adequately analysed when their parents apply for social assistance.

Facts on child poverty in Norway:

  • In 2012, 78 000 children lived in families with continuous low income
  • This proportion of children has risen from five to eight per cent in the 2002–2012 period.
  • The proportion of children in low-income families who have an immigrant background has risen from 35 per cent in 2002 to 50 per cent in 2012
  • More and more children of single parents grow up in low-income families

The Office of the Auditor General recommends the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion to

  • help strengthen the municipalities’ work to establish more and better initiatives to give poor children and young people a decent opportunity to participate in social life. The Ministry should for instance consider:
    • how the municipalities can use the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi)’s competence on children and young people from an immigrant background to enable all children and young people to participate in society
    • whether more knowledge of good solutions and methods that can assist the municipalities in reaching more poor children and young people will lead to better coordination of efforts to reduce the consequences of poverty among children and young people.
  • The Ministry should for instance consider whether it, with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, can
    • contribute to greater collaboration between directorates that have work and policy instruments aimed at vulnerable children and young people
    • coordinate and simplify the use of government subsidy schemes
    • clarify when to use the Child Welfare Act, and when to use the Social Services Act, when children need economic support for leisure activities
    • show more clearly how the use of state policy instruments gives children and young people more opportunity to participate in social life.
Ministry/ministries:

Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843