Child poverty measures saved! A note from Kitty Stewart

Dr Kitty Stewart prepared a joint letter about Child Poverty Statistics which was signed by 170 academics, and published in The Times.  The Times keeps the details behind a paywall, so with Kitty’s permission I am posting the letter and list of signatories here.

This is the text of the letter:

This week the House of Commons will decide whether to persist in abolishing the UK’s child poverty indicators, replacing them with ‘life chances’ measures of worklessness and educational attainment. We urge the government to listen to the Lords and retain the existing indicators, keeping income and material deprivation at the heart of child poverty measurement.

Research shows conclusively that income has a causal effect on child development: children in poor households do less well in part because of low family income. Worklessness is an inadequate proxy for children’s circumstances: two-thirds of UK children in poverty live with a working adult.

A recent government consultation showed overwhelming support for the current measures from academics, local authorities, frontline services and others. Just 1% of respondents supported removing income from poverty measurement.
Wider indicators of children’s well-being are welcome and important, but should not come at the expense of the existing poverty measures, which are vital to our ability to track the impact of economic and policy change.

Kitty has subsequently written:

The government has backed down on the abolition of the child poverty measures. The Bishop of Durham’s amendment was defeated in the Commons last week, but the government subsequently put a revised amendment to the Lords which does pretty much the same thing. There will be no requirement to report to parliament, but the law will continue to require annual publication of all four of the existing measures.

Maybe our joint letter, which was published in the Times on the morning of the Commons debate, added a little bit of extra pressure at a key moment, on top of the strength of the vote in the Lords and the concerted opposition from children’s charities and others. Whether it did or not, it seems that making a lot of noise can still make a difference, which is very cheering!


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