Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK 2010
The fall in child poverty in the first year of the recession shows how big an impact tax credits and benefits can make in the short term – while the rise and rise of in-work poverty shows their limitations as a long term strategy. The delay in publishing low income statistics means that we still do not have the full picture of what happened to poverty during the recession. But from what is now known, for the year up to April 2009, child poverty actually fell slightly due, in large part, to the substantial rises in Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit in April 2008.
As a device for getting money in the purses and pockets of low income families, the power of these policy instruments is self-evident. Yet with in-work poverty rising to a new record, the report shows in the inadequacy of an approach that dealt with symptoms rather than causes.
Although it is far too soon to start monitoring the effects of the Coalition's actions in the area of poverty and social exclusion, it is not too soon to identify the matters where policy action is needed. On the basis of our assessment of the Labour record, the report identifies ten challenges for the Coalition. They are:
- in-work poverty, which needs to be given equal status with out-of-work poverty;
- poverty among children in workless households, where the challenge is to sustain the substantial progress, back to the levels of the mid- 1980s, made under the previous government;
- ‘deep’ poverty, which requires recognition of the importance of the depth of poverty as well as its extent or scale;
- educational outcomes among the lowest attaining school children, including reviving the progress made among 11-year-olds dating back to the mid-1990s and sustaining more recent progress at age 16;
- young adults without minimum qualifications, where despite recent progress, more than one in five 19-year-olds enter the workforce ill-equipped to do even moderately well;
- progression in work, including pay and flexibility of conditions, particularly for parents and carers, as well as availability of on-the-job training;
- young adult unemployment, which, rising since 2004, must be recognised as a chronic problem for which the policies pursued even before the recession were inadequate;
- underemployment (including those in part-time work who want full-time work) the scale of which – some six million people – far outstrips conventional unemployment;
- health inequalities, which remain wide and persistent by class and/or income, despite overall reductions;
- lack of access to essential services, where differences by income in household access to essential services (including insurance, internet and transport) are an avoidable penalty of poverty. Although this list is selective, it provides a basis for early assessment of how far the ambitions of government policy match up to the extent of the challenges faced.
For the full report, click here.