The government’s strategy for ending child poverty is in a “fragile position” and must be overhauled in the light of the recession, a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report yesterday warned.
The research body’s latest annual study on poverty and social exclusion said rising unemployment figures called into question ministers’ focus on work as the main route out of poverty.
Report co-author Peter Kenway said: “The big concern now is how well an anti-poverty strategy that has been centred on getting people into work is going to fare in the face of a recession.”
Long way to fall
The report found social security benefits for adults were worth no more in real terms than ten years ago. Kenway said this meant “lots of people who lose their jobs have a long way to fall”. He added: “Those already out-of-work are going to find it very much harder now to get a job.”
The report also identified a rising proportion of pensioners were not taking up benefits to which they were entitled.
However, the study also highlighted a persistent rise in the number of working families who rely on tax credits to avoid poverty, and drew attention to the issue of “in-work poverty”, finding that a child in poverty was now more likely to belong to a working family than to a non-working one.
The study also assessed the government’s record on poverty and social exclusion over the past decade.
It found that after an initial burst of success there has been a significant slow down of progress in the last five years, with some areas worsening.
In 2002-3 over half of the 56 indicators monitored by the JRF – covering unemployment, education, housing and crime – had improved since 1998. Since then only 14 have improved and 15 have worsened.
The indicators where progress had stalled or gone backwards predominantly concerned low incomes or worklessness.
However, it also pointed to ten areas which had improved consistently throughout with the greatest improvement shown in educational attainment among 11-year-olds, the proportion of social homes deemed to be “decent” and in reducing violent crime and burglary.
Educational outcomes for looked-after children also improved consistently, while the gender pay gap also narrowed over the decade.
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