Posts Tagged ‘child poverty’

We need to address our poverty of language

19/06/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Peter Goddard

So Ian Duncan Smith busy is developing proposals for new measures for child poverty, to include various social and lifestyle measures.

That sounds sensible enough, but there are some on the left who were quick to disagree. Polly Toynbee was one of them. On the eve of Duncan Smith’s announcement she was doggedly insisting that “the only way to measure a nation’s poverty over time,” she states, “is to count how many fall below the norm, and how far. This international measure counts anyone on less than 60% of a country’s median income.”

As Neil O’Brien points out, though, this “effectively conflates poverty and inequality.”

Needless to say, equality and measures thereof are of vital importance, and much valuable research indicates that equality is a vital national good. But equality is not poverty.

The dictionary (OK, defines ‘poverty’ as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support.”

According to O’Brien’s research, most people share this understanding, “(70pc) think it still means not having enough to eat, or a place to live.”

In fact, almost nobody outside the political classes, when asked to define poverty, will ever use the words ‘median income’.

By confusing relative poverty with absolute poverty, Toynbee and her ilk enable some stirring invective. But it also creates some curious paradoxes.

It is, for example, perfectly feasible for everyone in an economy to improve their income and become visibly better off but, through an increase in inequality, this to result in more people falling poverty.

So by using this measure you can become materially better off whilst simultaneously plunging into poverty.  Most would agree this seems counter-intuitive at best, manipulative spin at worst.


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What’s the government got against children?

29/02/2012, 07:00:03 AM

by Michael Dugher

Today Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem minister for children and families, will be questioned by a cross-party group of MPs following a damning report by the all-party parliamentary group on Sure Start that said that, the UK is facing a “childcare crisis”.

The report highlights that fewer than half of all councils are able to provide adequate help for working parents.   Last week, I appeared on the BBC’s Any Questions? alongside Sarah Teather.  When asked what the government should do in the forthcoming budget she said: “One of the most important things is to put money back into families’ pockets”.  I nearly choked on my BBC mineral water.

The truth is that life getting more difficult for many families with children.  This was highlighted again on Monday by the national childcare charity Daycare Trust, which revealed that 44,000 fewer families have received help with childcare costs since cuts to tax credits took effect last April.  Furthermore, by cutting the maximum level of support available through the childcare element of the working tax credit, the government is taking an additional £500 per year away from many low-income working families.

Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  Just two weeks ago, the shadow treasury minister, Cathy Jamieson, revealed that 200,000 households, including 470,000 children, will lose tax credits worth almost £4,000 a year unless they significantly increase their working hours.

Due to changes that will come into effect in April, couples with children will have to work a total of 24 hours a week, rather than 16 hours, to qualify for the working tax credit.  In Barnsley alone, this could affect over 750 households and 1,400 children.  At a time when many employers are reducing, not increasing, the hours for part-time employees.  The government seems, perversely, to have a ‘work to welfare’ policy.

Government policies are also forcing many Sure Start children’s centres to close; centres which have been so successful in helping families and communities in poorer areas.  The government claims it is still committed to Sure Start, but figures revealed by Labour show that Sure Start budgets have been slashed in 83% of England’s local authorities.  The average decrease in real-term budgets was 11%last year and will be at least 21%this year.  Children’s charities, such as 4Children, have rightly voiced their concerns about the potential impact this will have on child poverty.


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The government must make sure they prioritise children

03/12/2010, 01:15:49 PM

by Kate Green

UNICEF’s Report Card 9 shows that, in comparison to other developed countries, it is material inequality that let’s UK children down.

UK levels of income poverty push the most disadvantaged children further behind compared to similar countries, such as France and Germany.  That’s deeply unfair to children growing up in this country, it’s a waste of children’s potential, and it damages all of us. Inequality between children affects everyone: through costs to business, the police, courts and health and education services.

UNICEF is calling for ambitious action by the government on income poverty in the forthcoming child poverty strategy, and to ensure that children living in poverty do not pay the price for reducing the deficit. But cuts to family incomes and to the public services that families rely on threaten to damage children’s wellbeing and outcomes.

Ministers say their spending plans won’t increase child poverty over the spending review period, but that’s hardly an ambitious statement from a government that’s supposed to be signed up to the target in the Child Poverty Act to reduce child poverty to 10% by 2020.

We can’t afford for progress to stall now: despite Labour’s investment in tax credits, child benefit and helping more parents into employment, we’re already behind target. Cuts to housing benefit, to child benefit, and to help with childcare costs will put families under more strain. Ministers need to show much greater determination and ambition to put families and children first. (more…)

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