UK & World News

  • 8 February 2013, 8:29

Child Poverty In UK: 'The Bigger Picture'

As many as 2.3 million children are not being included in official poverty statistics despite living "materially deprived" lives, according to a new report.

Households are currently deemed to be living below the poverty line if the money coming in is less than 60% of the average income.

But the think tank Policy Exchange says that definition is too narrow and that social deprivation should also be considered.

"It doesn't matter if you are just above the line or below the line," said the head of economics and social policy at the organisation, Matthew Oakley .

"If you have poor education, poor housing, you're struggling with family life, there's debt in the household, we should be trying to help these families... Just focusing on income clearly isn't enough."

Ruth Woodgate lives with her two daughters in the Nelson ward of Great Yarmouth, where nearly half of all children suffer poverty.

With 209 coming in each week, they are living way below the poverty line. All too often she relies on her bowl of coppers to find enough money for a loaf of bread.

"I find I'm constantly having to fight with myself not to feel bad about things because I know it isn't my fault, but the way I feel not having the money to do what I want to do for my children, to provide what I want for my children, makes me feel I'm a failure."

Policy Exchange accuses politicians of increasing handouts to those not in work simply to push them above the poverty line, rather than helping them find work.

Ms Woodgate agrees: "I think it's a silly, silly mistake to make really because it's not dealing with the issues. It's just throwing money at the situation and that's not always what is needed.

"I don't need handouts, I need a job. People with alcohol and drug dependency issues don't need money, they need help to get off it."

The Government is reviewing how child poverty is classified and a consultation launched by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith ends next week.

Responding to the report, Mr Duncan Smith said: "This is exactly why we are consulting on a wider measure to capture the root causes of poverty, which include worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown.

"It is not just about money. Despite billions of pounds being paid out in tax credits in the past decade, the focus on income alone has not transformed people's lives.

"To have any real impact on tackling child poverty, we have to have a better understanding of what it means to live in poverty in the first place."

But not everyone wants a new definition. There is concern from some charities that what is an internationally recognised understanding of poverty could soon be ditched.

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