“The key message is that poverty reduction appears to have stalled.”
If the new government is serious about wanting to improve on the last government’s performance on child poverty they should pay attention to the Millennium Cohort Study. This is one of the most exciting projects is modern social studies; run by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education, it is tracking children born in 2000 through to adulthood. Results from the fourth survey of these children has just been published as A User’s Guide to Initial Findings and the findings show that poverty is a reality for millions of British children.
If you define poverty as living in a family with an income below 60% of the median, then about thirty per cent of the families in the cohort are poor. If you go at it from the opposite end, and ask how poor are the bottom 20% of families, the answer is that none of them has an income above 48% of the median. 73% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in the millennium cohort are in poor families; so are 51% of black children, 26% of white children and 24 per cent of Indian children.
The study found that half the poor children lived in families where at least one parent has a job. This confirms the message from government statistics: if we want to end child poverty we have to address in-work as well as out-of-work poverty.
As Dan Kenningham says, October 17 is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It is a day the TUC marks with our annual Poverty Conference – we hold it on the day, or as close as possible if it is on a weekend. This year we are also using the conference to affirm our support for the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
It is also a day when the politicians in all parties should look at the Millennium Cohort Study and other data that confirm the reality of child poverty in Britain today. It is not enough to commit to mobility or fairness; when they were in opposition the members of today’s government all promised to work to end child poverty, and said that the then government had not done enough to deal with inequality.
What might a government do if it took this message to heart? Well, for a start, it might revisit the decision to uprate benefits in line with the Consumer Price Index. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed our view that this change “is very likely to mean less generous benefits in the years ahead.”
Over time the switch to CPI will make sure that people who have to live on benefits become poorer and poorer in relation to the rest of society – the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty is a very good time to demand that the government should change its mind.