The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is expected to unveil a new three-year strategy to tackle child poverty on Thursday, which could include a new definition of what constitutes poverty.
Mr Duncan Smith, who launched a consultation to consider ways in which to widen the measure of child poverty in 2012, has said that the income method of measuring poverty is too simplistic.
Currently, a child is said to be living in poverty if their household income is less than 60 per cent of the average (median) UK income.
Additional indicators of child poverty that are being considered as part of the consultation include: income and material deprivation, worklessness, unmanageable debt, poor housing, parental skill level, access to quality education, parental health and family stability.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which is against changing the statutory measures of child poverty, says that supplementary indicators could be of value, but it is important not to conflate poverty with broader problems, for example family stability can also affect wealthy families too.
A spokesperson for the charity, said, ‘We believe that the way child poverty is currently measured is still right. Most of the indictors being considered cover matters already included in the Child Poverty Act under section 9 on the content of Government child poverty strategies. That’s the right place for them because it means that the Government has to actually take action in those areas rather than just measure them.’
According to the Observer on Sunday, a central focus of the draft strategy, which will be unveiled by the work and pensions secretary and schools minister David Laws this week and put out for consultation, will be the need to tackle the ‘worklessness’ of the poorest families.
Another key focus of the strategy, which is designed to help the Government achieve its goal of ending child poverty by 2020, will be to improve the quality of pre-school education and the workforce. Other measures being considered include:
- Reducing the ‘typical’ energy bill by around £50
- Reducing water costs by capping bills for low-income families who are on a water meter and have three or more children.
- Expanding free school transport
- Building more affordable houses
- Introducing a cap on payday lending
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said, 'There is no excuse for children to be living in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. The fact that 3.5million children are living in poverty in the UK, with 1.6million living in severe poverty, means that huge numbers of children have lower life expectancies and are not reaching their potential in either the classroom or the workplace.
'The ambition to end child poverty by 2020 was the right one. A radical new approach is urgently needed to help families work their way out of hardship and prevent further families from reaching crisis point. This approach must be firmly rooted in early intervention because ultimately, failing to prevent the causes of child poverty fails the children and families who need help the most.'