Iain Duncan Smith: Child poverty approach 'set to fail'

 
Woman carrying a child Child poverty is predicted to rise by 100,000

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Iain Duncan Smith has said tackling child poverty by boosting family income through benefits is a narrow approach which "looks set to have failed".

The work and pensions secretary said there were problems with officially classifying child poverty as a family on 60% or less than the median income.

It created perverse incentives to lift people just over the mark, he said.

Official figures published on Tuesday suggest child poverty is set to swell by 100,000 over the next few years.

The previous Labour government introduced a Child Poverty Act, creating a legally binding requirement for the government to end child poverty by 2020.

Official figures suggest 2.8m children are living in poverty.

'Inconceivable'

This week the Institute for Fiscal Studies said it remained "inconceivable" that the government would hit the 2020 target.

Mr Duncan Smith made his comments in a speech in central London, arguing that the way child poverty was measured and tackled had proved "hugely expensive" and looked likely to fail.

Start Quote

We need to maintain our vital focus on poverty, while establishing much more effective ways of delivering on it”

End Quote Iain Duncan Smith Work and Pensions Secretary

He said that while benefits would always play a "vital role" for some, such as people with serious disabilities, increased income did not always mean "increased wellbeing".

In some cases, families might be pushed further into welfare dependency, meaning their children were more likely to follow suit later in life.

"Income through benefits maintain people on a low income, whereas income gained through work can transform lives," he said.

He said measuring poverty through the 60% measure created a "poverty plus a pound" approach - where authorities did just enough to keep some families just above the 60% mark without really changing lives, while those at the very bottom could be left behind.

'Illogical'

Mr Duncan Smith said policies like the pupil premium - designed to help the poorest school children - had "the potential to completely alter a child's future" but did not count towards the measure because the financial impact could not be measured yet.

He suggested new measures of wellbeing - taking into account factors like health, education, life chances and family security - rather than an approach "narrowly focused on income alone".

He said: "We need to maintain our vital focus on poverty, while establishing much more effective ways of delivering on it and making a real change to families' life chances."

Start Quote

Without these targets, the poorest families and children will fall further and further behind”

End Quote Rhian Beynon Family Action

Official figures published in May showed the number of children living in poverty in the UK fell during Labour's last year in power by 2% to 2.6m.

On ITV's This Morning, Prime Minister David Cameron was asked about figures indicating that child poverty was set to increase by 100,000 over the coming years.

He said it was "illogical" that child poverty was recorded relative to average income - because the state pension was going up by an unusually high £5.30 a week, he said, it meant some households with children were less wealthy in relation to pensioners.

"I think there is a real problem with the way we measure child poverty," he said.

"It is the right thing to do to increase the pension. It doesn't make any child in this country poorer because you are giving pensioners more money at a time when they need it."

'Targets matter'

Later, the prime minister's spokesman said the government had no plans to change its official poverty measures .

But he said there was a "debate to be had" about whether "income transfer" or deeper causes of child poverty and social mobility should be examined.

However, one campaign group described the government's direction on the issue as "another nail in the coffin of the life chances of a generation of children".

"Relative poverty counts - without these targets the poorest families and children will fall further and further behind," said Rhian Beynon, head of policy and campaigns at Family Action.

"Moving the goal posts on income poverty might help the government balance the books but it will send the life chances of children into the red."

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    If the government limited all benefits per household to 60% of median income, I reckon they could make huge savings.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 48.

    46. ravenmorpheus2k

    "35.CriticLunge
    How are we defining poor, not able to get the latest iPhone?"

    ---

    Sadly that sentence ruins the the comment you made.

    There are people living in fuel poverty in this country.

    --

    There are only people living in fuel 'poverty' because someone came up with an arbitrary figure to define it. Totally meaningless but people believe it.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 47.

    Based on the comments I have briefly looked at, it obvious to me, no one has ever lived poverty! I know what it is like not to have enough money to be able to pay for the things needed. When I had my first child, we had weeks where we really struggled to survive, and if it wasn't for family, I don't how we would of coped. The poorest need to more support to get out of it!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 46.

    "35.CriticLunge
    How are we defining poor, not able to get the latest iPhone?"
    ---

    Sadly that sentence ruins the the comment you made.

    There are people living in fuel poverty in this country. Not iPhone poverty.

    If people can't afford to heat their homes, run their cars, cook their meals, how poor do you suppose they are?

    When do we draw the line in the sand? When we all live like Africans?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 45.

    BBC this is an important issue , why keep moving it down your news site? Are you politically motivated?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    @33.
    'Want '& 'Need' are different things, poverty relates purely to 'Need'

    and that's Dr. not Mr. I'll have you know :-)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    Todays politicians don't understand poverty simply because they have never lived in poverty. All these Eton schoolboys don't have a clue what it's like to live of a household income that is less than 24K

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 42.

    For goodness sake BBC, stop telling us about (child) poverty in this country, when what you're really talking about is RELATIVE poverty.

    You headlines on the subject are invariably grossly misleading. The studies and reports are all about RELATIVE poverty in the UK, yet they're portrayed as being about absolute poverty. Very different conditions.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 41.

    The measure of 60% of average is ridiculous, some will never be content unless everyone has the same. Britain does well in ensuring children are fed, clothed, have shelter, free education (up to 18) and healthcare. True poverty is the absense of these things.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 40.

    rate this
    +3
    Comment number 27.Green Future

    51 Minutes ago

    "boosting family income" is not the only answer. We seem to encourage unfit people to keep breeding & giving those people more money (to waste) simply encourages to have even more children.

    The poverty of this remark should be clear to all.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 39.

    There is no absolute 'poverty' in the UK just income inequality. It is time for this meaningless and arbitrary child 'poverty' calculation to be scrapped.

    If you tell people they are poor then they will believe it.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 38.

    Let's be honest, the average politician's idea of poverty is no doubt far from what poverty really is. To the average Tory a child in poverty will be someone who's family income is less than 24k p/a.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 37.

    Being labelled as poor merely because of income is a crude and inaccurate measure and one of Browns favourite political tools. Throw money at a problem but not judge how well it was spent and one of the main reasons for our financial dilemma today. If a child is homed, clothed educated, reasonably warm and fed he is not poor.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 36.

    I am amazed that this story presents the concept that benefits are a perverse method of reducing poverty as if that concept was ground breaking. This has been obvious to all but the feeble minded for many years.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 35.

    How are we defining poor, not able to get the latest iPhone?

    Sorry, but even despite Labours best intentions it's still possible to provide for your child on a tight budget.

    Labour propaganda again, trying to move the goalposts on "child poverty", perhaps if you'd let in less immigrants to take our peoples' work there'd be less below your imaginary line?

    No, that would be un-PC I expect

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 34.

    Does anyone know how many children in the UK are actually poor?

    This raises the issue that there are a lot of politcally motivated definitions that clearly don't work yet they are being used to run the country.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 33.

    @PeterLanky- just being a poverty denier' doesn't mean that this is so. Even the Conservatives admit poverty exists.
    @Mr_Ads - given your name, do you think billions spent on advertising have an effect and if so, do you think the poor are immune? People want things because they are told they must have them. Better to understand people than cynically blame them for having their desires manipulated

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 32.

    Don't worry the private sector will take care of poverty, changing planing regulations will solve unemployment, removing higher rates of tax will rebalance the economy and most importantly of all - giving the queen a guaranteed pay rise evry year will mend broken britain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 31.

    Claimants will look at a job and calculate that if they are £40 a week better off doing it they are actually working for £1 an hour.But IDS's answer to this is to decrease benefits which would be fine were the genuine claimants always identified and always protected,it is that element of the equation IDS is ignoring.Persecuting the innocent to catch the idle is no way to proceed.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 30.

    For once I agree with IDS. He is right increasing wealth via benefits is not the right approach.

    Problem is, neither he, nor any other politician is willing to put the right pressure on the private sector to A) employ more people and B) pay them a living wage that keeps up with the cost of living.

    It is globally possible. Certainly when 1% of the worlds people hold the majority of the wealth.

 

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