Last week the government announced plans to change the way child poverty figures are calculated.
In a speech, work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said child poverty was “not about income alone”.
While acknowledging that “redistributing income is right”, he added that this had to be part of people taking control of their own lives. “It’s about taking responsibility for yourself and your family, playing a productive part in your community, creating an environment where success through hard work is celebrated.”
To this end a new paper will be prepared for later this year that will focus on “non-income” indicators of poverty, including unemployment, addiction and family breakdown.
Smith’s announcement came as figures showed the target set by the previous Labour government to end child poverty by 2020 had failed. Labour had made a commitment to ensure no child lived in a household on 60 percent or less than median income.
The official poverty figures from 2010-11 showed that there had been a slight decrease in child poverty—down by 200,000 after housing costs are counted—but this was entirely due to the fact that median income itself declined by 3.1 percent. This was the outcome of the measures instituted by Labour—including a pay freeze across the public sector—to finance its multi-billion-pound bailout of Britain’s banks.
Officially, the number of children in households earning £251 a week or less—the official poverty line—stands at 3.6 million, or 27 percent. More than 13 million people, one-fifth of the UK population, are counted as living in poverty after housing costs are taken into account. Of these, 7.8 million people are working-age adults, and more than 2 million are pensioners.