Demos Responds to the Government’s Child Poverty Measures

Demos welcomes a review of the definitions of child poverty, as we recognise that the old measure, based on 60% of median income, was inherently flawed. It makes no sense for the figures to show poverty falling during recessions when those at the bottom of the income scale are most vulnerable.

However, the new measure proposed by the Government is also inadequate.

Critically, it fails to recognise that people can be in work but still very poor – indeed, recent years have seen in-work poverty rising, with many people in unstable and poorly paid jobs.

A better approach would be based on minimum income standards, which define poverty based on how much money is required to secure a reasonable quality of life. This makes for a less arbitrary benchmark: one influenced by the cost of living rather than other people’s salaries.

Nonetheless, a promising development is the Government’s willingness to look in more detail at the different dimensions of poverty, and how they can interact with, and reinforce one another. For example, assets such as housing and bank savings can help people cope with loss of income, while debt can shrink pay packets further.

So too is it important to explore the full life cycle of poverty – understanding how deprivation can lead to poor educational achievement or employment prospects – and vice versa – which is essential to tackling entrenched disadvantage from the ground-up.