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14.06.12

Government to ‘broaden’ definition of poverty

Child poverty figures fell by 2% last year, but the definition of ‘in poverty’ has been moved, it has been revealed.

In 2010/11, 18% of children lived in households classed as below the poverty line; 300,000 less than the previous year. However the level of household income which defines ‘in poverty’ (60% of median income) also dropped from £259 a week in 2009/10 to £251 in 2010/11.

The Government suggests that additional factors to household income should be used to define poverty, such as drug addiction, homelessness and unemployment.

In a speech later today, the work and pensions secretary Ian Duncan Smith will say: “We remain committed to the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act, but it is increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone.

“Unless we find a way of properly measuring changes to children’s life chances, rather than the present measurement of income alone, we risk repeating the failures of the past.”

He is set to criticise Labour’s approach to poverty, focusing solely on income.

“Overall, the welfare bill increased by some 40% in real terms, even in a decade of rising growth and rising employment. Yet for all the extra money, the earlier and easier successes were followed by flatlining results.

“By this narrow measure, if you have a family who sit one pound below the poverty line, you can do a magical thing. Give them one pound more, say through increased benefit payments, and you can apparently change everything – you are said to have pulled them out of poverty. Yet moving someone from one pound below the poverty line to one pound above it might be enough to hit a target.”

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