15 Jun 2012

Children enduring the ‘boring’ business of being poor

They’re funny old things, poverty statistics. with their flurry of percentages and talk of medians and means.

In isolation, they don’t really give any true sense of what it actually means to be living in poverty.

For families we’ve spoken to over the past few months who are “officially” living in poverty  –  under the current calculation an income of less than  £251 a week – it can mean being terrified of the prospect of having to buy new school uniform or not always being able to make sure the kids have breakfast.

As one mother put it to me : “It’s just  bloody boring , no money, no options.”

The Government has now decided defining poverty on income alone is not enough any more. The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, says that’s too narrow and that it’s led to generations being stuck on benefits.

Interestingly,  he chose to give an example of drug-addicted parents who could be taken out of poverty by being given increased benefits but could spend that money on more drugs.

Yes they might. But as people with drug problems are somewhere around 6 per cent of all benefit claimants, they’re hardly typical.

He was also keen to stress that work is the way out of poverty.  Indeed. But it’s clearly no guarantee though.

DWP’s own figures suggest 58 per cent of children growing up in poverty are in households where at least one member of the family is in work.

The Government is certain it has the answer. The keystone of its welfare reform programme, the new single benefit Universal Credit  will, it promises, lift the “vast majority” out of poverty if at least one parent works 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.

In the current climate, that seems a very big “if”.

Figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis of the Coalition’s spending and cuts programme, suggest a further 400,000 children will fall into poverty by 2015.

That’s an awful lot of children living a life dominated by the “boring” business of being poor.

Read more:

Minister to change poverty targets

FactCheck: Can the government hit child poverty targets?




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5 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    IDS is a smug twit who thinks he has a series of nice un c ompliacted solutions to some massively com plex & deep-rooted problems. His solutions are too broad & are essentially “ultra-solutions” which won’t work. Much depends on work being available – but not much work other than part time & on minimum wage is on offer at present, so the whole charade falls over

  2. Andrew Dundas says:

    Are the career prospects of children of poor households below average because their parents lack education, or because there’s something inherent within them that determines their low incomes?
    Post war social history clearly demonstrates that a large proportion of well educated people were the children of poor and weakly educated parents. Which assures us that there’s no inherent reason for perpetuating weak education and poverty. At least not for all children from poor homes.
    Surely our challenge is to develop methods for achieving higher attainments and earning potential of poor families?
    IDS’ analysis and solution suggests he favours the traditional Tory philosophy that the objective of benefits is simply to support poor families. Which is what his mate Michael Gove is seeking to do too.
    Surely we ought to be trying to enable the children of poor families and their parents to become better able to achieve more productive and rewarding lives? Not assigning them to a permanent category of poverty?

  3. kevin goldie says:

    re dispatches programme ‘undercover undertaker’, it seems the co-op has lost the plot!

  4. sinbad says:

    the erosion of benefits and wages(purchasing power) is evident in the inability of even young professionals to buy a house.The process of multiple deprivation and its resultant problems are clearly the responsibility of Governments over the last 30+ years and much more severe problems are in the pipeline for the economy when the present un and under employed and the underfinanced employed have no savings or assets on retirement and ther is no employment for them to replace pensions and benefits

  5. Jac says:

    Undoubtedly “fit” to be bored to death if you’re young, poor, unemployed, ill, disabled, elderly … and disenfranchised.

Comments are closed.