The DWP and Department for Education are consulting on “better measures” of child poverty that will include a range of considerations – deprivation, parenting skills, worklessness, debt, housing, education, parental health, and family stability.
There are three fundamental muddles here. The first is the confusion between definition and correlation. We know that some people are more likely than others to be poor, such as families headed by women or people in lower social classes, which are not on the list. Even if all the things in the consultation were associated with poverty, it would not mean that they defined poverty.
Second, an association – an increased likelihood – is not the same thing as a characteristic. Poor families are more likely to have children at risk – but that does not mean that most, or even many children are at risk because they are in poor families. Poor families where children are at risk are a very small minority.
Third, the model in the consultation is based in an unjustifiable, stereotypical identification here of poverty and family problems. Many people – on low income figures, most – have been poor at some point in their lives, and all of us are vulnerable to poverty. Family problems are something quite different.