Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty

Still poor despite the statistics: IDS and his DWP spin-doctors need to get something clear - children haven't stopped becoming poor, just because of a skewed set of statistics. Incomes have dropped - meaning MORE children are in poverty than before.

Still poor despite the statistics: IDS and his DWP spin-doctors need to get something clear – children haven’t stopped becoming poor, just because of a skewed set of statistics. Incomes have dropped – meaning MORE children are in poverty than before.

According to a TUC report, average wages have dropped by 7.5 per cent since the Coalition came into office. This has a direct impact on child poverty statistics, which the government has conveniently ignored in its latest, Iain Duncan Smith-endorsed, child poverty figures.

Child poverty is calculated in relation to median incomes – the average income earned by people in the UK. If incomes drop, so does the number of children deemed to be in poverty, even though – in fact – more families are struggling to make ends meet with less money to do so.

This is why the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to trumpet an announcement that child poverty in workless families has dropped, even though we can all see that this is nonsense. As average incomes drop, the amount received by workless families – taken as an average of what’s left – appears to rise, even though, as we know, the increase is not even keeping up with inflation any more.

The problem lies in proving it.

Let’s do a rough calculation. In 2007-8, Jobseekers’ Allowance for a couple with at least one person over 18 was £92.80 per week (£4,839 per year). It is now £111.45 per week (5,811 per year) – an increase of 20 per cent in real money (not inflation-adjusted). In the same period, average earnings for those in employment rose from £26,020 per year (according to the Office for National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE)) to £26,500 – the figure we all know from the government’s calculation of its benefit cap). That’s an increase of just 1.8 per cent.

This doesn’t mean unemployed people are receiving too much – it means wages are being pushed down, as the TUC report shows. They are only ‘scratch’ figures – accurate data was impossible to find on the Internet this morning – but they show that JSA as a percentage of average wages has risen from 18.6 per cent to 21.9 per cent (roughly).

So workless income has risen in relation to the national average, meaning that child poverty in this sector appears to have dropped.

Alternatively, you could just use your common sense: People on benefit are not well-off, especially under a Conservative or Tory-led government.

The government’s figures don’t take 2007-8 – the year incomes began to drop – as their baseline figure. “To keep the absolute measure more in line with contemporary living standards” they use 2010-11 as the baseline. Incomes had already begun to drop by then, meaning the figures are misleading. In fairness, the press release does state that “you cannot compare this year’s published figure with last year’s” because of that change.

What this means is that the DWP’s press release about child poverty is utterly worthless. Let’s look at it anyway. It says:

“New annual poverty statistics (households below average income) out today, show how the number of children in workless poor families has reduced by 100,000 children over the past year (a two percentage point reduction).” While correct within its frame of reference, in comparison with previous income averages, this must be wrong.

“The statistics for relative poverty – the most commonly used poverty line – also show that the most vulnerable groups have been protected as pensioner poverty fell by 100,000, disability poverty by 100,000 and child poverty stayed the same.” Wrong.

“The number of children in absolute child poverty has increased by 300,000.” Wrong.

“Work remains the best route out poverty – these statistics show how children in workless households are around three times more likely to be in poverty than those in working families.” Absolutely wrong!

How can the last claim be correct? If the number of children in workless poor families has dropped by 100,000 but the total in poverty has risen by 300,000, that’s an extra 400,000 children belonging to working families who have fallen into poverty – by this government’s own figures!

Out comes Iain Duncan Smith with his latest lie: “We have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind and seen a reduction of 100,000 children in workless poor families.” Shockingly wrong!

Let’s get some sanity from the Huffington Post and Metro: “Some 2.3 million children were recorded as living in relative poverty between 2011 and 2012, in official government statistics,” the HuffPost reported. Interestingly, this compares with a Metro report claiming 3.8 million were in ‘absolute’ poverty (which is a statistical measurement, not a statement about how poor they actually are). Metro goes on to say this means more than one in six children are in relative poverty.

“Two out of three children living in poverty, 66 per cent, are now from working families. This has risen from 43 per cent in 1996-1997 and and amounts to 1.5 million children, according to analysis of the figures by the Resolution Foundation,” says the HuffPost.

“The proportion of children in poverty from working families has risen sharply since the start of the financial crisis in 2008.” In other words, Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP have lied again.

“Poverty is calculated by households living with less than 60 per cent of median average disposable income, compiled by the Department for Work and Pensions. But statistics have been skewed because of the fall in wages. If the number was calculated using average household income from the previous year, the number of children in poverty rises by 300,000.” This confirms the argument I am putting forward.

Oxfam and Barnardo’s have both criticised the government over the figures.

And Fiona Weir, chief executive of single-parent charity Gingerbread, said in the HuffPost: “Government claims that work is the best route out of poverty are simply not ringing true.”

The Government has a legal responsibility, under the Child Poverty Act of 2010 (passed by Gordon Brown’s Labour government), to reduce relative child poverty to below 10 per cent by 2020.

While Iain Duncan Smith has expressed frustration with the current method of defining poverty, it seems his government is determined to achieve that target by reducing incomes so much that nobody will be in ‘relative’ poverty…

… but across the nation’s working people, real poverty will be absolute.

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18 thoughts on “Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty

  1. Pingback: Iain Duncan Smith’s most shocking statistical lie yet: Child poverty | Street Democracy - where it should reach

  2. AJ

    Wait – It’s a trick!! Unfortunately soon you’ll be hearing this coming back to bite you, when quotes like this: “Government claims that work is the best route out of poverty are simply not ringing true” fall on deaf ears. Some will undoubtedly take it to mean that those on benefits are so much better off, or that benefits pay better than working – which in their minds will be why all of us dirty scroungers are milking the welfare system.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I don’t think so. It’ll come back to bite them, when people turn on them and say, “You told us work would take us out of poverty so we took your jobs – now you have us on poverty wages and zero-hours contracts. You lied. Work will never pay, YOUR way. We’re going to try someone else.”

  3. michelle coxon

    This does not surprise me at all, the man is a leech. He loves calling benefit claimants scroungers, i find him and his cronies the biggest lot of scrounging parasites we have ever had the misfortune to be represented by.
    A benefit claimant must ask, fill in endless forms and be made to feel like utter crap, this horrid man, just takes from anywhere he can.
    Poor excuse of leadership
    Whole shower of them took ‘great’ out of Britain

  4. murray

    Every statement this parasite makes,is a blatant LIE,why any one believes anything that he utters is beyond me.And LIAM BYRNE is no better.

  5. davidhencke

    Reblogged this on David Hencke and commented:
    what a brilliant solution for a Downing Street Lynton Crosby spin machine. Keep reducing average wages in the UK until they reach the level of China and Bangla Desh and then you can reduce the numbers in absolute poverty because they will need smaller incomes to qualify. That will help meeting your statistical targets. And you can argue that people must only be paid a pittance so Britain can compete, Just one of the many nasty things Iain Duncan Smith is doing at the moment.

  6. Justin Pratten

    Another day, another lie…what can we do about these criminals? Iceland locked theirs up. Just shows what a grip they have over this country. Makes me sick. I hope the economy does crash so they can experience what it is like to lose their income and homes.

  7. Mike Sivier

    I’ve just unearthed from among my bookmarks this quote from an Owen Jones article in the Independent, dated June 15 last year – so almost exactly one year ago. Under the headline “Working-class Toryism is dying and it’s taking the party with it”, he wrote: “Take this week alone. With 3.6 million children growing up in poverty, the Tories have stumbled on an ingenious solution: they will redefine what child poverty is. “It’s not all about money,” a government of millionaires lectures the growing ranks of the poor. In Opposition, Cameron said relative income poverty did matter, but he is living proof that a political shyster will say anything to get elected. At a time of mass unemployment, Iain Duncan Smith is hectoring parents to get a job as a solution to child poverty, even though more working families are classed as poor than those with no one in work.” It’s a year later, the situation is worse, but the script stays the same.

  8. Alex Casale

    The difference between a misfortune and a calamity is this:
    If IDS fell into the Thames, it would be a misfortune.
    But if someone dragged him out again, that would be a calamity.

  9. guy fawkes

    whenever child poverty becomes an issue in this country the media start rolling out all the foreign aid charity ads, no doubt trying to make those suffering feel guilty in comparison to third world poverty.
    It’s about time these charities like save the children and unicef started highlighting what has been done from the considerable charity given from more prosperous countries. than constantly bombarding us with negative images.
    The saying charity begins at home has little success, because we are too busy insulting our poor and single parent families.

  10. Pingback: Most shocking statistical lie yet: #Child poverty #UK Government #PostTruthPolitics | johndwmacdonald

  11. Dave Mick

    Ian Duncan Smith is not only a liar but he’s also a failed party leader (as many will know) but he’s also a failed army officer. Even after being educated at Sandhurst he only managed 6 years, that is just about the minimum. That service included Rhodesia (as it was known, now Zimbabwe) so that worked out really well. He’s lied about his university education and his management skills. And yet he is still in office.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Duncan_Smith is a good place to start your research, Wikipedia is not always the most reliable thing but there are links to starrt you on your journey.

  12. Mike Sivier

    Oh great. And I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.
    It seems the government has appointed Christian Guy to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which was established last year to monitor the government’s progress in improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in the United Kingdom.
    Mr Guy is a director of the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, which was set up by – try not to groan – Iain Duncan Smith in 2004.
    He replaces Neil O’Brien, a director of the equally right-wing Policy Exchange.
    For the nation’s children, the appropriate phrase is, ‘Out of the frying-pan, into the fire!’

  13. Pingback: Poverty and Patrimony – the Evil Legacy of the Tories. | kittysjones

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