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.