Attacking child poverty – David Laws wants your views…

Child poverty in the UK is way too high. It is at unacceptable levels and has been for too long. The government is united in taking child poverty seriously and we are determined – even in difficult times – to reduce child poverty and increase opportunities.

Traditionally we have defined poverty simply by relative income. We know now that this is not sufficient. A child’s experience of poverty is about more than whether their family income this week is low.

That is why we are consulting on a new measure of poverty. The new measure is not about abandoning the past. Nor is it about massaging the figures. It is instead about recognising the many dimensions of child poverty.

Income – or rather the lack of a decent income – is and will always be at the heart of what it means to be poor. We understand that. We know it to be true. And we are not running away from it.

But, as anyone who has ever experienced poverty will know, poverty has other dimensions. That is why, for example, we are consulting about including issues related to housing. It is legitimate to consider whether overcrowding, or the condition of a house or area should be included, over and above simple measures of income.

And then, most fundamentally, we need to think about the causes of poverty, and routes out of poverty. Good targets should incentivise good policy. We have to make sure that policy tackles the long term causes of poverty as well as looking at the short term effects of worklessness and low skills. We are therefore consulting about employment opportunities that are available.

And we are going further, and consulting about including educational standards in our measure of poverty. For sure, a good education does not reduce the extent or reality of poverty today. But it is equally the case that a good education is the strongest basis to avoid being poor as an adult. Those who get a high quality education and strong exam results are more likely to find good, stable employment later on in life. Good schools for everyone, irrespective of their background, lie at the heart of what this government is about. We are providing additional money for the most disadvantaged children through the Pupil Premium. We are insisting that all schools become good or outstanding schools. We are raising aspirations and expectations.

Today we are launching a genuine consultation – if you are passionate about this issue, we really do want to hear your views. Together, we will devise a better measure of child poverty. And then, together, we can put all the policies in place to deliver our shared ambition of our country in which we wipe away the scar of child poverty which currently defaces our nation.

You can respond to the consultation here.

* David Laws is Liberal Democrat Minister for Schools.

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  • Robin Martlew 16th Nov '12 - 9:54am

    Child poverty cannot be divorced from poverty generally and the problem is that poverty is a social problem involving much wider attention than we are prepared to consider. As an ex teacher I am sure thatit is confidence that needs recognising and enhancing. This comes from parents, friends neigbours and far less from simply cash or even ‘education’! The damage to confidebce comes long before formal education and certainly long before formal qualifications!”
    We still live in a politically outdated approach which identifies probems like ‘poverty’ with money and earnings when real poverty is about understanding and being able to deal with the societies we live in. We all need to feel confident in ourselves before we can feel confidence amongst others and education still has much too uch to do with attainment if formal structures rather than in ourselves.
    God! why do I bother?

  • I think family wealth as well as income should be considered. One of the great difference s between being rich and poor is having savings (whether cash, other investable products or a wider measure such as house owning). It matters a lot for children, who are given many more options in life, including the ability to step back and take a wider view of what they want to do, if their parents have money which to spend or fall back on.

  • Geoffrey Payne 16th Nov '12 - 12:42pm

    I would be interested to know if the government is still sticking to its commitment to abolish child poverty by 2020. Given the cuts in welfare benefits the answer would appear to be no. That said I agree that the statistics on poverty do look odd when the levels of median income are reduced as at present and then that in turn ‘reduces’the number of people in poverty. At Lib Dem conference there was a interesting fringe meeting on multidimensional poverty presented by Demos. I suspect their measurements are the one to go for

  • ” most fundamentally, we need to think about the causes of poverty, and routes out of poverty”

    The obvious point here is that children are poor because their parents are. One of the key problems is the low level of post tax income for many working people. The standard of living achievable by many people in this country, even if they “do the right thing” by going out to work and holding down a job, is appalling compared with some places in the rest of Europe.

    Pressing on with the increase in the personal allowance till it reaches the level of full time earnings on the minimum wage is a key step here, as is making sure the minimum wage does not fall behind price inflation.

    More widely, we need to be doing some joined up, cross government thinking on some of the major costs of living of poorer families. What use is it giving them more money if all of this is eaten up by e.g. higher transport fares or higher energy prices?

    Making basic, entry level jobs pay a decent post tax income and making the essential items in family budgets (food, housing, transport, energy) affordable is how we will increase people’s standards of living. Unless those in government can take this on board and act on it in a concerted way then any strategy to tackle poverty is doomed to failure.

  • Adam Corlett 16th Nov '12 - 1:52pm

    “We are insisting that all schools become good or outstanding schools.”

    What percentage of schools can be rated ‘outstanding’ before the word loses any meaning?

  • jenny barnes 16th Nov '12 - 3:43pm

    I’ve sacked all the unhappy people. Morale is sky high. I’ve never found a metric I couldn’t beat. Dilbert’s pointy haired boss.
    So more children are in poverty under this government, and you want to change the measurement? Why aren’t I surprised? Are you sure you’re not confusing poverty with “troubled families”?
    If you want to measure something else, rock on. If you want to measure poverty, stick with the measure we’ve been using. We’re all in it together, remember?

  • Helen Dudden 17th Nov '12 - 4:13pm

    Renting of property now rising even faster. Social Housing is costly, as well as the need t o make every home fuel and energy efficient. Making sure that children are feed, if they are entitled to a free meal they have respect, and not put in an area to separate. Getting this housing done and sorted, helping people back to work. Housing will produce work.

    Helping those who live in areas that are not the greatest, regeneration.

    I have been writing about the problems in the EU, high suicides and mental health, nothing different here, we are all the same and I feel society needs more.

    All children are born equal.

    Education, every child needs to be able to read, a lot of people in prison, who are in the position of not being able to read or write.

  • The tory led assult on benefits – no one on benefits should receive an income more than the average wage can’t help the situation but our parlimentarians are colluding. I am ashamed. Has no one noticed theincrease in food bank activity?! Er has anyone noticed that the ring fence was removed from funding for Children’s Centres – again with our pleadership approval. It is scant consolation to listen to the smug satisfaction that those lucky enough to be in work will pay less tax. Sorry if I am angry but child poverty should make us all angry in 2012.

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