Controversial plan for new measure of child poverty

The government has launched a consultation on proposals to alter the official measure of child poverty. It says it wants to look at developing a wider measurement than one based solely on income. Looking at relative income in isolation is 'misleading', it argues.


In addition to income and material deprivation, the consultation document suggests the following dimensions for inclusion in a new measure of child poverty:

  • Worklessness
  • Unmanageable debt
  • Poor housing
  • Parental skill level
  • Access to quality education
  • Family stability
  • Parental health

In a speech launching the consultation, Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith highlighted the fact that relative child poverty numbers had fallen in the previous year – whereas in fact children were no better off in real terms, since the drop was simply due to a lowering of the median income level. This pointed to the need for a more complete picture of what it means to be in poverty, allowing action to tackle the 'root causes' of poverty - including worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown.

Commentators gave the announcement a mixed reception. There was support for the idea of moving to a multi-dimensional concept of poverty, subject to keeping income and material deprivation as the primary factor: but there was also criticism for concentrating on indicators instead of policies to prevent the projected rise in poverty over the next few years.

The consultation lasts until 15 February 2013.

SourceMeasuring Child Poverty: A consultation on better measures of child poverty, Cm 8483, Department for Work and Pensions, TSO
LinksConsultation document | DWP press release | Speech | Barnardos press release | Childrens Commissioner press release | Childrens Society press release | CPAG press release | Gingerbread press release | JRF press release | Labour Party press release | BBC report (1) | BBC report (2) | Daily Mail report | Guardian report (1) | Guardian report (2) | Guardian report (3) | New Statesman report | Public Finance report | Telegraph report