Weekly Round up 02/12/11

News in brief (a round up of what happned child poverty wise during the week)

Sunday saw the announcement by Newcastle City Council that they were going to donate the wages not paid to striking employees to local voluntary groups working in disadvantaged communities in the city. We think this is a first in the country

Monday saw the launch of a Social Market Foundation report called The Parent Trap which explored the changing costs of childcare between 2006-07 and predicted costs in 2015. The report noted that the affordability of childcare was likely to decline in the coming years.

There was also an report on a review on Consumer Credit and Personal Insolvency. The BIS press release  that accompanied the report noted that ‘Following the review, the evidence showed that a cap would not be in the best interest of consumers as pricing some consumers out of the market could force individuals to seek unregulated or high cost credit’. So loan companies remain free to charge whatever they like….

On Tuesday, George Osborne set out the Autumn Statement which included the prediction that an extra 100,000 children will be forced into poverty in the next financial year as a result of the changes announced. The IFS produced a very useful summary of what the changes will mean to living standards, including a specific section on child poverty targets (Slide 14). The statement received a lot of press coverage, a lot of which focused on the impact on the very poorest children in our society and the different implications for different sections of society.

Wednesday was the day of industrial action for many people in the public sector and the majority of news coverage focused on this event. The Centre for Social Justice did, however,  launch a report on the links between mental health and poverty, which focuses on the perception of mental health issues as a cause of poverty as much as an effect of it.

On Thursday, Joseph Rowntree Foundation published their Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report for 2011 which looks at 50 indicators across a number of themes. The report also includes a section on child poverty, including a very useful table looking at long term trends across the child poverty indicators included in the government’s child poverty strategy. A blog accompanying the report is also worth reading

David Cameron also suggested on Thursday that “there is a real problem with the way we measure poverty in this country. Because it’s done on relative terms…” He suggested that the 100,000 increase in child poverty levels was because of an increase to the pension, a claim that was fact-checked and found to be misleading. In 2006, David Cameron made a speech on child poverty and how it is measured and it is worth repeating some of it here, because he is quite unequivocal in his thoughts about how child poverty should be measured:

“In the past, we used to think of poverty only in absolute terms – meaning straightforward material deprivation. That’s not enough. We need to think of poverty in relative terms – the fact that some people lack those things which others in society take for granted. So I want this message to go out loud and clear: the Conservative Party recognises, will measure and will act on relative poverty.”

“So poverty is relative – and those who pretend otherwise are wrong. This has consequences for Conservative thinking. Tackling poverty is not just about a safety net below which people must not fall. We must think in terms of an escalator, always moving upwards, lifting people out of poverty. And, crucially, an escalator that lifts everyone together.”

On Thursday evening, Iain Duncan Smith gave a speech at LSE which appeared to indicate a change in direction regarding measures of income. This was reported in sections of the press on Friday morning with The Guardian suggesting that ‘the target is no longer going to be a central goal of government policy’ although it is debatable that it ever was with social mobility being the ‘principle goal of the Coalition’s social policy’ according to Nick Clegg. The Telegraph provided a ‘feckless parents’ headline, while The Mail suggested that benefits could ‘do more harm than good’.

Signpost of the week (we’ll try and identify some ‘further reading’ each week – reports or papers that are thought-provoking, controversial or just generally helpful….)

Last chance to save a wild bunch of teenagers (Thanks to Dan Jackson for sending this one in)

Interesting article from The Telegraph earlier this week about a charity they are supporting this Christmas who are working in South Tyneside with a group of children who have been expelled from schools. Leaving aside the intervention itself, which seems quite intensive and supportive of the young people here’s a couple of quotes which, in my opinion, show how it easy it is to adopt and report lazy stereotypes without checking facts

“Some of these kids are as tough as it gets. They are pretty much left to feed and clothe themselves, and maybe their younger brother or sister. You could say they are feral, they have developed their own way to survive.”

This doesn’t seem like a very good description of ‘feral’ – ‘domesticated’ might be a better adjective?

“The teenagers being taught in South Shields are at the sharp end of social deprivation, living on desolate estates where unemployment and crime are the   norm and stable, working families are rare.”

Why is stable linked with working? The two aren’t mutually dependent

A lot of it is aspiration. You are looking at generations of unemployed since the shipyards closed.”

The kids are poor because they and their parents never aspired to be anything else etc etc. Which shipyards are referred to? If it relates to closures in the 1930’s which led to the Jarrow March, is the article suggesting that there are families who have never worked since then? More recent shipyard closures in the 70’s would probably suggest the term ‘generations’ is slightly misleading

Looking ahead…. (announcements coming up that we’re aware of)

Nothing specific but, given the announcements relating to measures of poverty this week, it wouldn’t surprise us if other developments occurred in this area in the near future.

Contributions (over to you….)

We would (still) welcome comments, suggestions and contributions from our readers. If you have a particular question you would like to pose, a subject you would like to see covered – or cover – in the blog, please get in touch with us. If you’d like to suggest any new section or changes to the ones we’ve got above, please do so.

Best wishes,

Steve

s.j.crossley@durham.ac.uk

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