A Different Take: Promoting the voices of children, young people and families in debates on poverty in the UK
Families experiencing poverty are often in the spotlight – politicians plan to ‘turn their lives around’; some newspapers raise concerns about rising poverty rates while others draw our attention to cases of perceived benefit fraud; celebrities promote their views on the ways that people in poverty should be behaving differently and even on whether poverty exists at all; and TV programmes show highly sensationalised representations of how people and families in poverty spend their time.
The proposed new poverty measure released this week by the Social Metrics Commission showed that whether or not you’re in poverty is determined by your income and your costs: not having enough resources to meet your essential costs is a defining feature of poverty. We know there are millions in the UK who are restricted in this way every day – having to go without. But compounding this is the ‘poverty premium’ – the additional costs associated with being poor that exert even more pressure on families who are already struggling.
Today, the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) has published the results of its research into a new way of measuring poverty. You may think that we already have a good way of measuring poverty, and that’s true, so what does this new offering from the SMC add?
Politicians are always concerned about public opinion, and they often seek to shape it. But, despite their efforts, we know that public policy and public opinion do not always match, and two pieces of recent research illustrate this clearly. In July the latest British Social Attitudes Survey was published, and showed strongly that the public thinks the government should financially support those in low paid work.
At a recent meeting on women and poverty, I was asked to speak about universal credit (UC). It forced me to think about the ways in which UC is hugely problematic for women, particularly mothers. Eventually I concluded it was a case of discrimination by design. Here’s how it goes.
In the ‘simple’ world of universal credit, monthly assessment periods are the supposedly ‘neat’ way of judging what financial support families should get based on their earnings and circumstances. For example, if someone starts earning more their universal credit is reduced.
It’s time to start listening: what the Department for Work and Pensions needs to learn about universal credit
In the Commons last week, Work and Pensions ministers responded to concerns about universal credit by offering to look at individual constituency cases MPs were raising, where things might not be going quite right. They gave the impression that anything not working was an anomaly – and that they’d listen and fix these cases. What we’re seeing through our Early Warning System, however, is that cases where things go wrong don’t tend to be anomalies – they're the tip of the iceberg.
Latest figures show that child poverty is rising. There are currently 4 million children living in poverty in the UK, and there are projected to be 5.1 million by 2021. While the government doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge this reality, most starkly illustrated by its refusal to discuss the impact of universal credit on child poverty, others are keen to find practical ways to address the problem.
Local child poverty estimates are difficult, but essential to expose the stark realities of geographic inequality
Which of the following statements tells you more?
Around 4 million of Britain’s 14 million children live in households classified as in poverty because they have below 60% of median income after housing costs.
Among the 2,200 children who live in the Notting Barns area of Kensington, site of Grenfell Tower, nearly a thousand are in families with very low incomes. Just over half a mile away, among the 2,200 children living in three wards around Kensington High Street and Cromwell Road, only 150 are in this situation.