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If David Cameron wants to tell us the current definition of child poverty is a bad one, he’s probably right. The problem is, his preferred changes to that definition will probably be worse.
Poverty is currently defined according to whether a household’s income is less than 60 per cent of the national average. So during a recession, when most incomes (apart from those of the very rich) drop, poverty actually appears to decrease.
Now, despite there having been no appreciable rise in incomes across the board, the Institute for Fiscal Studies is forecasting a rise in child poverty from 2.3 million to 2.5 million – that’s 200,000 more children in poverty, as it is currently measured.
For David Cameron, this is a disaster because it shows that – even with the help of the silly sliding-scale definition of poverty, his government is worsening the situation for children across the UK. What an evil man. What an evil government.
His solution, it seems, is to revive plans to change the way child poverty is defined, to ensure that all those children who have fallen on hard times since he came into office (in 2010, not this year – we, at least, can be honest about the effect he is having) may be dismissed from the poverty figures even if they don’t have food to eat or clothes to wear.
The thought of taking action to stop children falling into poverty probably hasn’t even occurred to David Cameron.
It seems he discussed the matter on Tuesday morning with Nicky Morgan, our dunce of an education secretary, Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister they keep in a back room in case he frightens children, and Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary who models his behaviour on the Nazis – any of his solutions are likely to be final.
(In fact, the £12 billion cuts being planned for the Gentleman Ranker’s welfare budget are likely to be fatal to a huge number of people in any case.)
The Guardian‘s report on this points out that “a little-noticed line in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto said the government would “work to eliminate child poverty and introduce better measures to drive real change in children’s lives, by recognising the root causes of poverty: entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt, and drug and alcohol dependency”.
So the manifesto plan is: Blame the parents.
What are they going to do, then – sanction them (take money away)?
Already popular organisations are starting to line up against the government. Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group took an early shot at Cameron’s claim to be running a ‘One Nation’ government (a slogan he stole back from Labour after the general election).
“You can’t have one nation if children’s lives, opportunities and life chances at every turn are shaped and limited by poverty,” she said. “The government’s child poverty approach is failing but the prime minister’s speech [on Monday] simply missed the point and failed to set out what his government will do to prevent his legacy being the largest rise in child poverty in a generation.
“It is no good pulling bodies out of the river, without going upstream to see who is throwing them in – especially, if turns out the culprit is government policy. The right choices that would reduce poverty include protecting children’s benefits with the same triple-lock protection pensions enjoy, fixing the deep cuts to tax credit help for the low-paid, tackling cripplingly high rents, high childcare costs and expanding free school meals.”
These things will not happen under a Conservative government. There’s no profit in it for them because children – unlike pensioners, for example – don’t vote.
So, in simple terms, this is the situation:
Child poverty is rising.
The Conservative Party intends to pretend that it isn’t happening by fudging a new definition of poverty.
The Conservative Party will do nothing to tackle the real causes.
What conclusion can we reach?
The Conservative Government welcomes increased poverty in the UK.
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