Child poverty caused by drugs and alcohol, say public

As many as nine out of ten people say children can be described as living in poverty if their parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to an opinion survey carried out for the government. This is more than the proportion who say lack of money is a factor in child poverty.

The results come from a survey carried out in December 2012 by GfK NOP. 967 people were contacted by telephone. They were asked the question: 'Could you please tell me how important you think each of the following are when deciding whether someone is growing up in poverty?' (followed by a list of 12 options, of which people could pick up to four).

Key findings

  • 90 per cent picked the option 'A child having parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol' as being either important or very important. 
  • 81 per cent picked 'A child living in a home that is damp or cold'.
  • 80 per cent picked 'A child having to care for a parent'.
  • 79 per cent – only the fourth highest proportion – picked 'A child’s family not having enough income'.

The survey was intended to inform the government's consultation on changing the way child poverty is measured. The government says the existing measure is too heavily focused on relative income, and wants any new system to be 'widely accepted by the public'.

Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) called the survey results 'striking', and warned that spending on benefits was wasted if it failed to tackle the 'underlying causes' of poverty.

The report has been widely criticised by charities and academics, both for prejudging the consultation process and for its 'deeply flawed' methodology. Only a small minority of those in poverty, for example, are also drug addicts.

SourcePublic Views on Child Poverty: Results from the First Polling Undertaken as Part of the Measuring Child Poverty Consultation, Department for Work and Pensions
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