As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts

As the DWP publishes its annual Households Below Average Income figures, coalition policies are cancelling out a decade’s progress in tackling child poverty.

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Today, DWP publishes the latest round of its annual Households Below Average Income statistics, which yield the frequently-cited ‘headline’ figure for relative poverty in the UK (the measure being a household income below 60% of the median figure).

Although today’s figures are likely to show the median target of 1.7m as having been missed, if the Child Poverty Action Group’s predictions are correct, somewhere between 900,000 and one million children will nonetheless have been lifted out of poverty over the past decade – a fine achievement, of which Labour can be proud.

IDS-clawHowever, as we learned yesterday, the coalition is preparing to respond to today’s figures by simply moving the goalpoasts, with Iain Duncan Smith today announcing the publication of a green paper looking at non-income measures for poverty:

In a speech setting out his thinking, Duncan Smith will stress that he is not abolishing Labour’s child poverty target… But Conservative sources said the target could not be reached even if £19bn of extra income were poured into anti-poverty measures such as tax credits.

Promising to deliver ‘a better set of indicators’, Duncan Smith will say: “We remain committed to the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act, but it is increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone.”

Duncan Smith will argue that the idea is simply to work with a broader range of poverty indicators, rather than actually rejecting an income-based measurement. Nonetheless, it is clear that he is deeply sceptical of the latter approach.

The Guardian suggests he will frame part of his argument in terms of the ‘poverty plus a pound’ thesis:

“Give them one pound more, say through increased benefit payments, and you can apparently change everything – you are said to have pulled them out of poverty. Yet moving someone from one pound below the poverty line to one pound above it might be enough to hit a target.”

Likewise David Cameron.

 


See also:

IDS blames deficit on child poverty target 14 Jun 2012

Government won’t reach its target on reducing child poverty 13 Jun 2012

Tackling child poverty: the story so far 13 Jun 2012

Child poverty: Absolute and relative 30 May 2012

UK success on child poverty threatened by austerity programme 29 May 2012


 

Although Cameron, in 2006, accepted the need for a relative income measure of poverty, his views have clearly changed somewhat since:

“I think there is a real problem with the way we measure child poverty in this country. Because it’s done on relative poverty, if you increase the pension, that means more children are in poverty. I think that’s illogical.

“It’s the right thing to do to increase the pension. It does not make any child in our country poorer, because you are giving pensioners more money at a time when they need it. I think what we have got to start doing is measuring how we help children out of poverty and keep them out of poverty.”

Remarks such as these from Cameron, Duncan Smith and others betray an enduring ignorance about the rationale for income-based measures for poverty, a willingness to dramatically oversimplify the way in which we’ve attacked child poverty for the last decade, and a worrying complacency about the outcomes achieved.

The Child Poverty Action Group has helpfully provided a guide to busting myths around relative child poverty, which we draw upon below:

‘60% of median household income is an arbitrary poverty line.’

No, it isn’t. It’s an internationally recognised measure, used, amongst others, by the EU and OECD.

‘Relative poverty is impossible to eliminate.’

As per Cameron’s mistake above. Frank Field has got this one wrong too: the error stems from confusing the mean (average) and median (mid-point). As incomes fluctuate, so relative measures do constitute moving targets.

Nonetheless, as Imran Hussain points out: “It is still mathematically possible for every household to be moved from below 60 per cent of the median to above without the median moving: if every household below 60 per cent moved to the range between 60 per cent and 100 per cent, then the median would not move at all.”

‘Relative poverty is not real poverty.’

Yes, it is. Income distribution creates social, cultural and behavioural norms: a relative measure of poverty is essential because it tracks exclusion from these norms and thus provides a more nuanced appreciation of poverty (as opposed to simply providing feedback on the number of people deprived of existential basics such as food and shelter).

‘The UK only measures relative income poverty.’

No, it doesn’t. Iain Duncan Smith’s error is to overlook the wide range of non-income based poverty measures the UK already has in place: by tracking educational, health, behavioural and familial outcomes, amongst others, we arrive at a more fulsome understanding of what poverty means in practice.

‘We have achieved nothing over the last decade.’

As above: while it seems unlikely that we’ll have met the 1.7 million interim target, to argue that lifting nearly a million children out of poverty over the course of a decade is insignificant is transparently ridiculous.

‘Progress over the last decade was illusory – poverty plus a pound.’

Another IDS trope, decisively disproved by research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies: their analysis suggests we would have seen significant reductions in child poverty over the last decade with the relative income poverty line set anywhere between 43% and 100% of median household income.

‘We haven’t looked at the real causes of poverty.’

As CPAG and Left Foot Forward argued yesterday, this grossly misrepresents Labour’s strategy over the past decade: it was not simply about boosting lower incomes through an expansion of the benefits system, but rather involved a wide range of investment in services such as Sure Start, the Decent Homes Initiative and National Childcare Strategy.

 


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30 Responses to “As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts”

  1. Beattie Foundation

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts: //t.co/v29kGvOm by @BenPhillips1989

  2. John Regan

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts: //t.co/v29kGvOm by @BenPhillips1989

  3. Political Planet

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts: As the DWP publishes its an… //t.co/iQIGvyXA

  4. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting… //t.co/kzWTh1qI

  5. Alan199

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts: //t.co/v29kGvOm by @BenPhillips1989

  6. Pulp Ark

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of… //t.co/283LlIRx #CleanPolitics #childpoverty #muslim #tcot #sioa

  7. Grocky Groc

    and IDS exposes his crass stupidity with his ‘poverty plus a pound’ soundbite – to be true – it has to be ‘poverty plus TWO pounds’

  8. Lord Blagger

    Try doing an expose on government debt.

    e.g How the really big debts are hidden, like Robert Maxwell and Bernie Maddoff, and for the same reasons.

    How about a expose of how governments spend people’s pensions contributions on other things, leaving nothing in the pot. End result no compound interest.

    When even a min wage earner would have been better off with their NI going into the FTSE (even after its poor recent performance) its the state that the criminals.

    That’s why people are poor. Not because the state doesn’t help them, but because the state steals their money.

  9. Anonymous

    Yup, an exposure of why you haven’t payed your share and how you’ve hidden it away, and are not paying your proper share from capital. Compound interest is only necessary if you’re talking about schemes which stop paying in – which is of course your goal, to end them.

    And they’d be “better off” in that they’d die far earlier, sure, without the food they need to buy and you’re trying to strip from them in addition to receiving no pension, as you’ve laid out in detail.

    Keep blaming the state for your theft. ANYTHING BUT PAY UP!

  10. Dànaidh Ratnaike

    As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/I4b37w5E @leftfootfwd

  11. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  12. Bob Ellard

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  13. Fusty Luggs

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  14. johnny_wheelz

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  15. JC

    Since you raised the matter in you inimitably charming manner, as a freelancer, how do you pay your tax? Are you working as a Limited Company or as a Sole Trader?

  16. wg

    It would be nice to know what Newsbot9 does for a living – he certainly spends a lot of time being a keyboard warrior.

    I think he fancies himself as a “Wolfie Smith” type character.

    Oh, and before our Newsbot9 has a go at me for hiding tax – I’m PAYE.

  17. liane gomersall

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  18. Sharon Avraham

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  19. Cal Bryant

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  20. hay

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  21. Mark Silver

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  22. Anonymous

    Universities pay me as an employee.

  23. Ian Alex Blease

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/vdcECNWG

  24. Anonymous

    Debunking Torygraph trolls like you is easy.

    And yes, of course you’d say that. If you said the sky was blue, I’d take a color calibration.

  25. wg

    @Newsbot9

    University employee – shareholder; WOW.

    Proper working class, eh!

    Up there with the 1% – part of the disconnected bubble.

    Part of the tier of scum who are stealing the wealth from working class people.

    You’re a fraud Newsbotty

  26. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  27. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  28. Brian Tomkinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  29. BevR

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

  30. Bob Ellard

    RT @leftfootfwd: As the coalition attacks relative child poverty, here’s a list of mythbusting facts //t.co/g01KfIS8

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