28 MAY 2019

New approach to poverty

The past few weeks have been overwhelming in politics. We have lost a Prime Minister. We have also had European elections which had some of the characteristics of a second referendum. The physical outcome of the election was clear with both Labour and the Conservatives doing badly. But I have been appalled at how the heavy spin that has so characterised the Brexit debate has simply trundled on. I have already had both sides adding up the percentages given to each Party and writing to me to claim that Brexit or Remain won. This is a particularly unhelpful task especially as all too often a result that does not give the answer that is expected will be omitted.

But because of this continuing concentration on Brexit, many may have missed the announcement we made that we are developing a new poverty measure based on the work of the Social Metrics Commission This new measurement is likely to prove very helpful in tackling poverty and it is a shame that it has been largely missed as it will help understand poverty in this constituency. The new measure will be based around a family's total available resources – including income and savings - after any inescapable costs, such as childcare or disability. It also considers the persistence and depth of poverty and the characteristics and factors that impact on a family's experience of poverty, for example having a disabled family member or indeed qualifications. We are assessing whether and how this can be developed and improved further to increase the value of these statistics to the public. This fits with the mandate of the Social Metrics Commission which is an independent commission that was formed with the aim of developing a new approach to poverty measurement. This reflects the nature and experiences of poverty that different families in the UK have and that can be used to build a consensus around poverty measurement and action in the UK.

The assessment we are doing will include the wider measurement framework covering the nature and experience of poverty. I hope that everyone will be supportive in helping us improve the evidence we gather so we can better focus government policies on tackling poverty.

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