Child poverty is not just about income, says Iain Duncan Smith

Jun 14, 2012

Work and Pensions secretary will redefine child poverty so that social issues are taken into account as well as income

WORK AND Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will announce today that Labour's plans to end child poverty by 2020 were flawed, and that he will publish a green paper to redefine child poverty by taking into account social factors as well as income.

The Child Poverty Act was brought in by the previous Labour government and requires that child poverty must be eradicated by 2020. The Act defined poverty as those households earning an income less than 60 per cent of the median.

The current government, however, believes this measure of poverty is too narrow and can be perverse because, if average incomes fall, the poverty line falls too. According to The Daily Telegraph, ministers want to widen the definition to include criteria such as long-term unemployment and drug dependency.

Announcing a green paper today, Iain Duncan Smith will point out that the last government spent £150bn on tax credits alone between 2004 and 2010 for little return.

"Overall, the welfare bill increased by some 40 per cent in real terms, even in a decade of rising growth and rising employment. Yet for all the extra money, the earlier and easier successes were followed by flatlining results," he will say.

Duncan Smith will claim: "Universal credit will ensure that the vast majority of children will be lifted out of poverty if at least one parent works 35 hours a week at the minimum wage – or 24 hours if they are a lone parent.”

Promising to deliver "a better set of indicators", Duncan Smith will say: "We remain committed to the targets set out in the Child Poverty Act, but it is increasingly clear that poverty is not about income alone."

Responding to Duncan Smith's announcement, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: "In a great country like Britain we should stand behind parents fighting to bring up their children free of the curse of poverty.

"Behind Cameron's promises we learn today that those parents and their children will now be abandoned and told, 'you are on your own'."

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