Welfare secretary’s speech on child poverty targets says Labour’s redistributive tax credit system ‘fuelled dependency’
Thursday’s speech by Iain Duncan Smith on child poverty should be seen as part of the coalition’s wider agenda to rid itself of Labour’s pursuit of a more equal society. The former Tory leader aims to keep the poverty targets for 2020, but to see if there are “better measurements of child poverty – which include income but do more to reflect the reality … in the UK today”.
Duncan Smith’s arguments are simple: Labour’s figures are a statistical trick based on relative numbers, and even by spending billions the last government failed to meet its own goals.
So the relative child poverty target for last year was missed by 600,000 – with 2.3m children left in penury.
As the Department for Work and Pensions stated in a press release: “It cannot be right that because median incomes fall children are considered to have moved out of poverty when there will have been no real change to their lives.”
This might be true but it is political sophistry. Relative poverty is widely accepted as a measure because the poor live among us all – and their living standards are measured in comparison to their fellow citizens.
What is also puzzling is that the Child Poverty Act, which all parties supported in passing before the last election, has four targets: relative low income, absolute low income, persistent low income and material deprivation.