Behind the headlines

As Tony Blair tries to refocus his attention on domestic issues at
his party conference this week, he will hardly need reminding that
poverty remains a considerable challenge for his government. The
raft of anti-poverty measures – tax credits, welfare to work,
neighbourhood renewal and various initiatives aimed at social and
economic regeneration – has clearly begun to make an impression,
but not to the extent that the government intended. The fifth
annual poverty report from the Department for Work and Pensions
found failure to make progress against 10 of the 55 anti-poverty
indicators introduced four years ago, while there was too little
information to check whether improvements had been made against 12
more of the indicators. At the launch of the report Opportunity for
All, work and pensions secretary Andrew Smith claimed that “great
strides” had been made, although he admitted that more needed to be
done. “Poverty and social exclusion are deep-rooted problems that
take time and effort to tackle.”

– Opportunity for All, is available from

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“We’re the fourth richest country in the world, yet 32 per cent of
children and young people live in relative poverty. Sixty-five per
cent of ethnic minority families are among the 30 per cent of
poorest households. Families with disabled children have up to
three times the standard level of household costs. Youth
homelessness is at an all-time high. Asylum-seeking families get 24
per cent less financial assistance than other poor families. The
government’s welfare to work policies need to be underpinned by
radical improvement in benefits for the UK to become less
shamefully divided.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“The government is to be applauded for having the target of
eradicating poverty, but it would be over-ambitious and unrealistic
to expect such a long-term problem to be solved in the space of
just four years. I am obviously disappointed that there has not
been more progress on addressing pensioner poverty and I am
particularly concerned that if decisive action is not taken to deal
with the looming pension crisis, many of tomorrow’s pensioners will
be stuck in the poverty trap. If the government is really
interested in the long-term eradication of poverty, it must act now
to put some guarantees into the private pensions sector.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute
for Health, University of Leeds

“Coming at a time when it has been suggested that the concepts of
left and right are meaningless, these figures are a sobering
reminder of the deep divisions in our society. Eradicating poverty
should be the hallmark of a social democratic party. Unfortunately,
this government has been sidetracked by the belief that
‘modernisation’ is somehow a third way alternative to

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“I remember learning about anti-poverty strategies when I was a
social work student some 11 years ago. I recall thinking then that
the grand sounding strategies were missing one key factor: they
failed to fully address the issue of greed and materialism that
dominated the society I lived in. Now I have a better understanding
of the intricacies and dilemmas associated with the eradication of
poverty but my views remain fundamentally the same.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Personally I found the report fascinating, often alarming, but at
least honest. Indicators for poverty were never going to be simple
but changing the goalposts is not the answer. There are some real
achievements but as we all know they are not enough and far more
must be done – the indicators are one way of keeping the government
on track, but how disappointing, and embarrassing for ministers,
that some data are still not there after four years.”

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