The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a pamphlet called A UK without poverty , proposing a programme of action to mitigate or reduce poverty. Poverty is “when a person’s resources are not enough to meet their (sic) basic needs.” They argue for a “comprehensive approach” focusing on “pockets” (boosting resources directly), “prospects”, “prevention” and “places”.
The view they’re putting of poverty is limited – there is much more to it than low resources – but that doesn’t diminish from the importance of improving people’s resources. However,the approach that’s generally being taken – including the emphasis on prevention and places – is heavily geared towards correcting individual and familial deficiencies, rather than addressing structural issues. In the treatment of benefits, there are three key flaws: the exploded belief that work is the answer, the attempt to swim around the need to put adequate funding into basic transfer payments, and an acceptance of personalised targeting that is doomed to failure. Those are, of course, the same flaws that have run most recent attempts to reduce poverty into the buffers.
There’s a gap between the heading I gave this entry – eliminating poverty – and mitigating or reducing it. Most of the measures that JRF consider are timid. Increasing resources is supposed to be done by improving incentives, encouraging people into work and reviewing the decisions to cut benefit upratings. That is nothing like enough, and the pamphlet’s own assessment of the likely impact doesn’t suppose that it will be. If we’re serious about eliminating poverty, we need major steps towards inclusive economic development, a wide ranging reconsideration of household incomes, benefits that offer households a stable and secure income, and much more extensive redistribution. Of course, that’s not going to happen.