Posted: 15 June 2012

We should tackle poverty, not redefine it

The latest child poverty statistics show that there are 2.3 million children living in poverty. This shocking statistic means that nearly one in every five children is currently living below the breadline.

Nonetheless, significant progress has been made with 1.1 million children pulled out of poverty since 1999 and the levels of child poverty at their lowest since the 1980s. Three-hundred thousand children were lifted out of poverty from 2009 through 2010.

However, the government has announced that they are exploring redefining child poverty and how we measure it and will be bringing out a consultation on this.

Changing focus won’t help end child poverty

We already have clear, internationally comparable measures of what constitutes child poverty enshrined in the UK’s Child Poverty Act 2010. They calculate relative household income poverty, persistent poverty and material deprivation.

We do not need to rethink or redefine this problem – we need to focus on tackling it. There is still a very long way to go before we reach the government's target of ending child poverty by 2020.

A major concern is that the considerable progress made towards ending child poverty in the first decade of the millennium will be reversed by the government’s cuts to welfare and the services that are vital for the most vulnerable families.

Helping families move out of poverty

Despite popular rhetoric, there are high levels of children in poverty growing up in working families. The statistics show that currently the majority (60%) of children in poverty have at least one working parent.

The government is radically reforming the welfare benefits system with the introduction of the universal credit aimed at making work pay. We have welcomed this simplification of the benefits system but are concerned it may not achieve its aim to ensure working provides sufficient income to pull families out of poverty.

The integration of free school meals into the universal credit system is a key issue to ensuring the achievement of this aim. Our survey of parents found that many were worried about losing support for school meals if they found work.

Our Fair and Square campaign calls for all children in families on universal credit to be able to access free school meals. This would help make sure parents aren’t deterred from moving into work and would provide support for those working families struggling to survive on a low income.

The focus of working to end child poverty should not be on redefining what it is, but on finding effective practical solutions and devising long-term strategies to eradicate it from Britain once and for all, improving the lives of all vulnerable children.

By Laura Rodrigues, Policy Officer


Watch our Economic Adviser, David Hounsell on the child poverty statistics.


By Laura Rodrigues - Policy team

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If you insist on using relative poverty, you'll end up tying yourself in knots.

And that's exactly what's happened with these figures. You've ended up celebrating a situation in which everybody's incomes are falling, regardless of whether they're above the median or below.

But as long as people are kept in ignorance of what relative poverty really means, I suppose you'll be able to get away with it.

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