In the first of this weeks blogs on child povertywe look at why the youngest are also the poorest – and why this trend is set to intensify
Children are the age group most likely to live in poverty. Children are the age-group hardest hit by austerity. We now have multiple reputable analyses – including one produced by the Governments own Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission – which tell us that the overall effect of Government Policy is to substantially increase the levels of Child Poverty in the UK.
It is against this hard evidence that the Government’s commitment to eradicating child poverty should be tested and I am sad to say found deeply wanting. It is important to recognise that child poverty is not rising in spite of Government policy, it is rising because of Government policy.Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission https://www.gov.uk/government/news/commission-publishes-response-to-the-draft-child-poverty-strategy Institute for Fiscal Studies … Continue reading
The graph shows predicted levels of child poverty for this decade with and without the tax and benefit changes introduced since 2010. Whatever your views on cuts to public spending it is no longer credible to deny that the poorest children are paying a very high price for austerity. These particular estimates were produced by the highly regarded Institute for Fiscal Studies for the Northern Ireland devolved Government and DO NOT INCLUDE the £12Bn of further cuts to unspecified benefits that have been announced for after the election.Institute for Fiscal Studies http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r78.pdf & http://www.ifs.org.u/publications/7054 Save the Children have made a conservative estimate that such cuts would drive child poverty levels to over 5 million.http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/2014-05/five-million-uk-children-could-be-trapped-poverty-2020
Focusing Poverty on the Young: A long term trend.
The previous government made some progress in reducing child poverty – not as much as it aimed for – but substantial reductions none the less. Yet both spending and poverty reduction was actually focussed on the other end of the age spectrum. While child poverty’s slow pre-1997 rise was halted and reversed, the pre-1997 decline of pensioner poverty sped up.
The graph shows the age profile of adult poverty at the turn of the millennium and ten years later. While the reduction in child poverty was welcome the big trend over the first 10-years of this century was the collapse of pensioner poverty. This is not an argument to say pensioners should get less – far from it. In a country as wealthy as the UK 14% of pensioners living in poverty is still far too many. The important question is why have three successive Governments have seen pensioners as a priority while combating child poverty has had much less uniform support?
Some may say that pensioners vote so politicians pander. There is an element of truth in that, but pensioners also have children and grandchildren and I am certain they do not wish poverty on them.
Deserving and undeserving poor
I would argue that the answer lies in how we view impoverished children and pensioners. Support for pensioners has been built on the argument that they have paid in their entire life and now are simply taking out what is owed. They are portrayed as the deserving poor – the debate chooses not focus on those who did not pay in, or those who have behaved badly – although such people certainly do exist in small numbers.
Support for eradicating child poverty was built on an argument that children bear no responsibility for their financial circumstances. No serious challenge has been made to this argument but instead the debate has deliberately been focussed on parents virtually ignoring their children. Benefits that support children have been presented as rewards that encourage parents to split-up, to have too many children and most importantly not to work. In short the argument is that children are in poverty because of the bad behaviour of their parents – which in turn justifies cutting support to the children.
The argument is premised on a carefully constructed lie and moves onto a ridiculous conclusion – but it is a conveniently cheap ridiculous conclusion. Using this nonsense we have been convinced to allow our revulsion at barely existent scroungers to override our concern for our children. Shame on us.
PS: I wouldn’t expect children taught these lessons to grow into adults that will happily pay our pensions either. The argument “Why should we pay to support people who didn’t do the right thing and save for their retirement?” shares the same unpleasant roots as “Why should we pay to support people who didn’t do the right thing and earn enough money to support their own children.”
|↑1||Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission https://www.gov.uk/government/news/commission-publishes-response-to-the-draft-child-poverty-strategy
Institute for Fiscal Studies http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r78.pdf & http://www.ifs.org.u/publications/7054
|↑2||Institute for Fiscal Studies http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r78.pdf & http://www.ifs.org.u/publications/7054|