The appointment of the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, has caused a stir, especially coming shortly after her predecessor had shown some willingness to address universal credit design problems.
What do the benefit cap, tougher conditionality for claimants and means testing child benefit all have in common? They all hit families with children hard. And they will all drive up child poverty in the next five years and beyond.
At the 101st session of its conference in June this year, the International Labour Organization agreed Recommendation 202 on national social protection floors. Esoteric though it sounds, this sets standard that has the potential to require the radical upgrading of the British social security system.
How much does it cost to bring up a child, free of material hardship and social disadvantage, in the UK today? How should these costs be measured and what costs should be included? And how adequate is the benefits system in meeting the cost of children?
In tough economic times, public debate can sometimes become more understanding of the plight of the worst off, but at other times show elements of mean-spirited selfishness. Nowhere has the latter response been more evident than in recent debates about the uprating of benefits.