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New Report: How the Government can measure poverty to improve life chances

The CSJ has called for a far reaching overhaul of the existing poverty measures in our new report, "Improving Life Chances".

Amending the Welfare Reform and Work Bill:

The Government is in the process of reforming previous measures of poverty contained in the 2010 Child Poverty Act, through the Welfare Reform and Work Bill. This legislation is a key part of the Prime Minister's Life Chances Agenda and will enable him to measure the success of his "all-out assault on poverty" through a series of measures which look at the drivers of poverty and the life chances of children living in poorer families.

On 25th January an amendment was approved by the House of Lords which reintroduced relative income measures, but not binding targets, to the Bill.

We are urging the Government to take into account the five main drivers of poverty – family breakdown, worklessness, drug and alcohol addiction, personal debt and educational failure within the Government’s plans for a new approach to measuring poverty.

In our report we set out a range of measurements to track progress in each of these areas.

Improving Life Chances Report:

Our report creates a life chance risk assessment that classifies children as at risk of poverty if they live in families where parents have an addiction, are in serious personal debt, have no skills or only one parent is able to work.

The report also includes a new income measure of poverty, responding to a cross-party amendment which placed a previously discredited income measure of poverty back into the Bill.

We recommend that an income based measure of poverty could be used as a ‘gateway’ to tackle the root causes of poverty through an agenda focused on life chances.

In our report we argue that this would give a financial dimension to the Life Chances Agenda and acknowledge the importance of income.

Our new metric for measuring poverty would identify a child as being in poverty if they were found to have one or two life chance risks and their family fell below one of the income measures. Where a child had three or more life chance risks and was in an income poor family for three years, the child would be considered to be in a new category of persistent poverty.

This report seeks to fundamentally change the way we view poverty and gives the Government new tools to deliver the Prime Minister's Life Chances Agenda. 

  • To read the report click here
  • The Daily Telegraph covers our report here
  • The Daily Mail covers our report here

Fraser Nelson identifies four basic rules for avoiding poverty in outstanding Daily Telegraph article

In his weekly comment article for the Daily Telegraph, Spectator Editor Fraser Nelson has combed through data going back to 1970 and has identified 'four basic rules' for avoiding poverty.

This is essential reading. To read Fraser Nelson's article click here

All eyes on the Budget as Iain Duncan Smith launches Healthy Relationships Fund

By Frank Young

In an eye catching speech on Wednesday Iain Duncan Smith fleshed out the Government’s approach to encouraging stronger families by launching a new Healthy Relationships Fund.

The Fund will support those councils that are committed to bringing forward comprehensive strategies to strengthen families. The time for Family Hubs, long promoted by the CSJ, has come. 

Iain Duncan Smith used much of his speech to outline the huge social consequences of family breakdown and called for Relationship Support to be “woven” into every Government service.

Iain Duncan Smith’s speech is an important intervention and goes a long way to achieving the Prime Minister’s ambition of the most family friendly Government ever.

With only a few weeks to go until the Budget, we now need to see the Chancellor match the social costs of family breakdown with money to tackle this problem. All eyes are now on the Budget and whether the Chancellor can match the Government’s rhetoric in this area.

Family Breakdown statistics:

  • By the age of five, 48 per cent of children in low-income households are not living with both parents. By the time these children reach their early teens 65 per cent of children from low income households do not live with both birth parents - 26 percentage points higher than the figure for better-off households. 
  • One million children have no meaningful contact with their father at all, despite 95 per cent of parents considering interaction with a child’s father to be important.

The Prime Minister should extend his family agenda to those who need it most

By Harry Spooner

Earlier this week the Prime Minister delivered the latest instalment in his current programme of ‘Social Justice Mondays’ by turning the political agenda towards his bold plans for prison reform.

The Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Michael Gove are to be applauded for shining a spotlight on the importance of education and treatment for addiction in efforts to rehabilitate prisoners. This is a big first step in refocusing the debate and, more importantly, in turning around lives.

No mention of family life and relationships:

In amongst the rhetoric around supporting prisoners, the Prime Minister left out any mention of the importance of family life and stable relationships in reducing reoffending on release.

The Government’s own research into reoffending shows prisoners who have no family contact whilst in prison are 39 per cent more likely to reoffend than those who have received family visits.

Maintaining strong family relationships should be at the heart of any rehabilitation strategy.

The Prime Minister should urgently bring his family stability agenda to the people who need the love and support of family life the most.

Prison Reform statistics:

  • 45 per cent of criminals re-offend within a year of release (rising to 58 per cent for those serving sentences less than 12 months);
  • 70 per cent of prisoners have at least 7 previous offences, and the average prisoner has 16 previous convictions. 99 per cent of prisoners will be released back into our communities.
  • 24 per cent of adult prisoners have been in care as a child. 49 per cent have an identifiable mental health problem. 47 per cent have no qualifications.

Ruth Davidson MSP puts poverty fight at the centre of Scottish election campaign

By Alex Burghart

The leader of the Conservative Party in Scotland, Ruth Davidson MSP outlined her thoughts on poverty in a keynote speech hosted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier in the week.

The scale of the task was underlined in her startling claim that £4 of every £10 spent in Scotland is spent on avoidable problems.

This was a tour d'horizon of a new approach to fighting poverty in Scotland.

Whilst speculation surrounds Ruth Davidson’s future ambitions, the real story of this speech was her challenge to the SNP to end “massive public spending on the middle class”. This is a Conservative Leader challenging a left-wing Scottish administration to use targeted policies to tackle poverty and bring to an end the era of universal benefits. 

In a raft of policy recommendations Ruth Davidson called for resources to be taken away from those with the ability to pay and redistributed to the poor. According to Davidson, the SNP’s protection of free Higher Education has come at the cost of 152,000 places at Further Education Colleges.

This is an important, if little reported, move towards a Conservative Party that is both more ‘compassionate’ in its outlook and more robust in calling for policies to be targeted to those most in need.