The Child Poverty Crisis made in Downing Street

February 21, 2013 4:12 pm

47% of children in my constituency of Manchester Central live in poverty. That’s 47% too many. With the highest child poverty rate in the country Manchester Central is on the front line in the fight to improve children’s futures and get parents into work that pays. You would think that figures like these would be a powerful spur to action for Government but in reality, the opposite is true.

Whilst local organisations and local authorities are coming together to come up with plans to tackle child poverty through the Greater Manchester Child Poverty Commission, this Tory-led Government is dithering disgracefully. Rather than take action to tackle child poverty, the Government is consulting on how you measure child poverty, despite the fact the experts have spent the last 40 years developing accurate poverty measures. We don’t need more wrangling on measurement, we need real action on poverty pay, the childcare crisis facing families and a tax credit and welfare system that works.

Services matter too of course. However, these figures come on the back of a Local Government Settlement which saw the ten most deprived local authorities having their spending power per head of population reduced by eight times as much as the ten least deprived local authorities in England. Indeed, Manchester City Council is facing the highest level of cuts of any local authority at a time when nearly one in four children in the city (and nearly one in two in my constituency) are in poverty. Manchester also has the highest number of people affected by the bedroom tax. Contrast that with the Prime Ministers own West Oxfordshire local authority which will actually gain spending power over the next two years and his Witney constituency where child poverty is just 7% and you can see starkly where this Government’s priorities lie.

These devastating poverty figures are not just numbers either. They are children without adequate shoes or coats, living in households where parents in and out of work are struggling desperately to put food on the table – often missing out themselves – and heat their homes. These families are at breaking point as they are pushed into poverty by a Government hell bent on making the least well off bear the brunt in a perverse austerity drive which sees tax cuts for millionaires at a time when children’s futures are on the line. I’m concerned this toxic mix of Tory-led Government measures, supported by their Lib Dem cheerleaders, will create a child poverty time bomb which will get worse, not better.

What the 11,669 children in poverty in my constituency deserve to know is, why are the Government singling out Manchester to bear the worst of these cuts when figures like these show we can bear it the least. Labour has a strong record, lifting millions of children out of poverty. We need to work together to formulate a One Nation response to child poverty which leaves no child or family in any part of the country behind.

Lucy Powell is MP for Manchester Central

  • http://twitter.com/crispeater Chris Wills

    Good piece, although the child poverty level for Witney constituency is 10% overall (7% in 3 wards of the constituency). Still very low though compared with nearly half of all children in Manchester Central, which is utterly shocking. Full figures here:

    http://endchildpoverty.org.uk/images/ecp/ECP%20UK%20map%202013%20full%20data%20set%20-%20Final.xlsx

    %20-%20Final.xlsx …

  • Monkey_Bach

    While Cameron pontificates about decreasing poverty overseas his government spares no efforts to imagine and implement cuts expressly designed to increase poverty amongst the neediest citizens of his homeland. What a queer fish Cambo is! Eeek.

    • Quiet_Sceptic

      So what are you suggesting?

      Cut overseas aid and target at those in the UK in need?

      • Monkey_Bach

        No. My point is that Cameron says different things to different audiences and that it is wrong to cut help to the needy, to whom you are committed, whether at home or abroad. Mind you if Cambo has his way millions look set to be diverted away from ameliorating famine towards helicopters and weapons as a sop to his mutinous back benchers! Eeek.

    • Dave Postles

      ‘While Cameron pontificates about decreasing poverty in underdeveloped countries overseas’
      Not any more, it seems, as it is reported that some of the aid is being diverted to armaments.

  • MrSauce

    Did all those children become poor in the last two years?

  • MrSauce

    Did all those children become poor in the last two years?

  • MrSauce

    Did all those children become poor in the last two years?

    • rekrab

      Oh Yeah! welfare cuts have a cause?

    • Monkey_Bach

      I think the point is that whereas child poverty had previously been steadily decreasing over time, Coalition policies now look set to increase it big time. Politically it’s going to be an impossible sell for the Coalition persuade a majority of the British public that it’s fair to cut direct taxes paid by millionaires in a big way and not unfair to increase the poverty of hundreds of thousands of innocent babies and children by social policies they dreamed up (without too much thought or analysis) and are pursuing.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/charities-warn-of-looming-child-poverty-crisis-8501736.html

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/16/poverty-map-benefit-cuts-children

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Monkey,

        to understand what this article is saying, I had to find out the definition of poverty, which in the UK is agreed upon as 60% of the income of the median income. I have no real difficulty with that, and certainly do not imagine that life is easy for those in that position, or sadly worse.

        But, what you say is – counter-intuitively – the opposite of the case. If the median level of income falls, as it has, it has the effect of “theoretically” lifting some out of poverty. If the median income rises, the opposite, and more are plunged into “technical” poverty. It therefore seems like a ugly and inefficient way to measure poverty when there are probably so many other social factors that should also be considered.

        (This effect occurs when measured at national levels – I do not claim that it does at individual levels)

        Perhaps there should be some effort into establishing a definition of poverty more reflective of reality, and more broadly based.

        • Dave Postles

          The debate exists; for an introduction, Stephen P. Jenkins and John Micklewright, Inequality and Poverty Re-examined (Oxford, 2007), which addresses the so-called ‘poverty line’ and the relative merits of unidimensional and multidimensional approaches – but not in the purposive way of Donkey Smith.

        • Alexwilliamz

          That does not follow with the median, it depends on the underlying distribution of income. With the mean the effect would be more likely to be expected.

          • Hugh

            It does seem to follow in practice: Child poverty fell during the recession.

          • Dave Postles

            Ostensibly, on that measure, it is claimed that it did. OTOH, it’s like with the Gini coefficient, one really doesn’t know what are the real incomes of the highest earners, so all these metrics have margins of error.

          • Hugh

            Why doesn’t one know the real incomes of high earners, and how is that likely to have skewed the figures?

          • Dave Postles

            Remuneration packages at the top are opaque. Owners of private equity companies will have even more opaque income. There are remuneration vehicles which are paid through offshore accounts. In terms of both income and wealth, therefore, there are undeclared and unknown quantities at the top. The recorded Gini coefficient is thus acknowledged to be an underestimate of inequality. The median will be influenced if there is a large loss of data at the top end, but not so drastically, of course.

          • Hugh

            But we are talking about whether poverty has risen or fallen, and if renumeration packages are opaque now, so have they always been. Furthermore, I suspect there there is a fair amount of income uncertainty at the lower end, too.

          • Dave Postles

            They are more opaque now, according to the literature, and levels of remuneration at the top end have rocketed even in the recent recessions, so that even more is concealed. The paradox is that inequality by any measure has increased immensely, but, using the ‘poverty line’ metric, child poverty has diminished. As you state, that has resulted because the (ostensible) median income has collapsed. Your reference to income uncertainty in the lower quantiles relates, I presume to untaxed income – ‘black market’.

          • Dave Postles

            They are more opaque now, according to the literature, and levels of remuneration at the top end have rocketed even in the recent recessions, so that even more is concealed. The paradox is that inequality by any measure has increased immensely, but, using the ‘poverty line’ metric, child poverty has diminished. As you state, that has resulted because the (ostensible) median income has collapsed. Your reference to income uncertainty in the lower quantiles relates, I presume to untaxed income – ‘black market’.

          • Alexwilliamz

            As I said it depends on the distribution, which is why using just averages often does not help give people any really useful information to make judgements. One would hope that child poverty was one in which the distribution had a strong positive skew, so that movement of the median by a few pounds either way should not bring a large number of children in or out of poverty. If changes to the median have a large effect on numbers in poverty (based on the 60%) that suggests a more significant problem with a more even spread of incomes and a large number of children still around the 60% mark. Things like the min wage and living wage and commensurate benefits are the best way to deal with the issue as they ‘garuntee’ no one should be lurking that far from the median. Alongside this of course is an economic policy that creates worthwhile activity for all.

          • Monkey_Bach

            That’s because the benefit cuts are only just about to impact with much worse ones on the way if the Coalition stoops to implement them, e.g., uprating benefits at 1% per year rather than the Consumer Price index (which is the same as a 2% or bigger cut in real terms for the poor), limiting child benefit to two children (if that mad old bugger IDS gets his way), cutting Housing Benefit for under-occupiers (so that young children currently occupying separate bedrooms could cause their parents to be hit by the Bedroom Tax) and so on and so forth.

            Just watch what happens from April Fool’s Day up until the next General Election. Like witnessing a terrible car crash, once seen, it will be hard to tear your eyes away.

            Eeek.

          • Dave Postles

            Add in payment of council tax in many local authorities as well.

        • Monkey_Bach

          But poverty in a society can only ever be validly measure in relative rather than absolute terms. Compared to lives led my many men and women in Victorian England, when this country ruled four tenths of the world and was pre-eminent militarily and industrially Britain’s poorest citizens today would probably be regarded as rich because most of them own a mobile phone, or a television set, or a bicycle. And yet in comparative terms these people are genuinely poor: a daily struggle to budget the pennies, nourish themselves adequately, and try to stay healthy. People once drew water from the river, or pumped it up manually from a well, in all weathers: these days pure water flowing from a tap is considered normal rather than a luxury in everybody’s home, not just the homes of the wealthy. Poverty in a society can never be measured fairly in absolute terms deliberately disregarding massive disparities in the distribution of wealth and resources between groups of citizens or we end up with a highly stratified society with a few super-rich individuals and a very large number of poor people living Third World lives in a First World country. Eeek.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I think you are correct, but even when measuring relatively, some discrimination and judgement needs to applied (probably by making a judgement of multiple factors), and that seems to be missing from the current official definition.

            Perhaps the word “poverty” itself seems to be not useful. To many people, perhaps a majority, it has connotations of the very old image of someone whose toes are coming out of their broken shoes, and who is on the verge of starvation, living in some place with no heat, etc.

            And it throws up many anomalies. For a start, it seems to be measured nationally, and yet people live locally. Poverty in the Kensington Borough of London might occur with an income of as much as £30,000, relative to the other people living in the Kensington, but not be measured as such by a national measurement. It also works the other way. The same person and income living in a blighted northern town might be seen as rich, locally.

            And then, there are also anomalies. About 30 miles from where I live, there are many eastern europeans in the town of Boston. Many have extremely low incomes relative to Britons, and live in shared accommodation, but yet relative to their home countries, they are rich, and send money home. In Britain they are in poverty, in Ukraine they are wealthy (mostly pretending to be Polish, as this immigration is allowed by the EU), and so they choose to come here. They exchange a life not of poverty (in Ukraine), for a life of poverty in Britain, and they are better off for it.

            Please note, I attach no blame to them. They make decisions and choose according to their own best interests, and probably are not at all concerned as to whether we view them as being in poverty or not.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I think you are correct, but even when measuring relatively, some discrimination and judgement needs to applied (probably by making a judgement of multiple factors), and that seems to be missing from the current official definition.

            Perhaps the word “poverty” itself seems to be not useful. To many people, perhaps a majority, it has connotations of the very old image of someone whose toes are coming out of their broken shoes, and who is on the verge of starvation, living in some place with no heat, etc.

            And it throws up many anomalies. For a start, it seems to be measured nationally, and yet people live locally. Poverty in the Kensington Borough of London might occur with an income of as much as £30,000, relative to the other people living in the Kensington, but not be measured as such by a national measurement. It also works the other way. The same person and income living in a blighted northern town might be seen as rich, locally.

            And then, there are also anomalies. About 30 miles from where I live, there are many eastern europeans in the town of Boston. Many have extremely low incomes relative to Britons, and live in shared accommodation, but yet relative to their home countries, they are rich, and send money home. In Britain they are in poverty, in Ukraine they are wealthy (mostly pretending to be Polish, as this immigration is allowed by the EU), and so they choose to come here. They exchange a life not of poverty (in Ukraine), for a life of poverty in Britain, and they are better off for it.

            Please note, I attach no blame to them. They make decisions and choose according to their own best interests, and probably are not at all concerned as to whether we view them as being in poverty or not.

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            I think you are correct, but even when measuring relatively, some discrimination and judgement needs to applied (probably by making a judgement of multiple factors), and that seems to be missing from the current official definition.

            Perhaps the word “poverty” itself seems to be not useful. To many people, perhaps a majority, it has connotations of the very old image of someone whose toes are coming out of their broken shoes, and who is on the verge of starvation, living in some place with no heat, etc.

            And it throws up many anomalies. For a start, it seems to be measured nationally, and yet people live locally. Poverty in the Kensington Borough of London might occur with an income of as much as £30,000, relative to the other people living in the Kensington, but not be measured as such by a national measurement. It also works the other way. The same person and income living in a blighted northern town might be seen as rich, locally.

            And then, there are also anomalies. About 30 miles from where I live, there are many eastern europeans in the town of Boston. Many have extremely low incomes relative to Britons, and live in shared accommodation, but yet relative to their home countries, they are rich, and send money home. In Britain they are in poverty, in Ukraine they are wealthy (mostly pretending to be Polish, as this immigration is allowed by the EU), and so they choose to come here. They exchange a life not of poverty (in Ukraine), for a life of poverty in Britain, and they are better off for it.

            Please note, I attach no blame to them. They make decisions and choose according to their own best interests, and probably are not at all concerned as to whether we view them as being in poverty or not.

          • Dave Postles

            Terminology: again, there is a debate out there, from Sen in first the parts of the world vulnerable to food shortages and then in the global context, to more geographically-focused discussions. Sen’s idea of ‘entitlements’ (basic rights tor resources) is freighted with ambiguity in the context of common language. The more poignant term would be ‘deprivation’ in the sense of having inadequate access to education, health and welfare, etc (whatever multivariate/multidimensional aspects you wish to include). What must not be done is to label deprivation or poverty as the dysfunctions of drug and alcohol addiction etc in the pervasive manner of Donkey Smith.

  • MrSauce

    The comparison between Witney and Manchester is certainly instructive.
    Manchester has a lot of very rich inhabitants – Witney has very few.
    Manchester has a lot of poverty – Witney has very little.
    Witney has the sort of society that Ed says he wants – strong communtity spirit and no great divide between rich and poor – but it doesn’t want him.
    Witney votes Tory.

    • Dave Postles

      Mr Sauce the Sociologist presents his in-depth analysis – well, his hunches, anyway.

      • MrSauce

        I am familiar with both Manchester and Witney as I work in both and live in one.
        The contrast is striking. Two Premiershop football clubs, large ‘media’ industry and large scale commercial activity ensures that Manchester is home to a relatively large population of very rich people, yet according to the above statistics there is a lot of poverty.

        Witney has a tiny fraction of the opportunities present in Manchester, and certainly not the population of super-high wage earners (it doesn’t even have a proper restauraunt outside the Oriental sorts) yet poverty is relatively rare.

        It is a funny old world.

        • Dave Postles

          I defer to your more intimate acquaintance, except to observe that the high-earners in Manchester tend to live in Cheshire and Witney, as I recollect it, was a dormitory place for Oxford, even in the late 60s and early 70s. Note, however, that the comparison was with the Parliamentary constituency of Witney.

          • Alexwilliamz

            You are correct very few very rich people actually live in Manchester with the exception of a handful of posh flats, and most of those are actually in Salford. As you correctly summise the wealthy people actually live in Cheshire which I am told has the highest concentration of millionaires outside surrey in the country. A better comparison with Witney then might be one of the ‘commuter towns’ in cheshire where a number of average income live, but are surrounded by wealthy people in the surrounding more desirable properties. Somewhere like Macclesfield might be a better comparison with Witney in that regard. Clearly working or living somewhere does not mean you have any actual intimate knowledge of its demographics.

          • Alexwilliamz

            Just a bit of research a terrace house in Manchester 123,851 ave in witney 237,438. Not sure what that tells you other than people in witney are probably better off generally? So what have we established better off people tend to vote tory, their policies tend to protect those with wealth. Macclesfield also has a conservative mp. Blimey ground breaking stuff. I’d be interested in which way Mr Sauce has measured the ‘strong community’ spirit between the two places?

        • Alexwilliamz

          But the article was about the constituency. The ‘media’ industry is not in that constituency and neither is one of the football ‘clubs’ not that the location of the football stadium will have anything to do with wealth. With the exception of a few flats in central manchester almost all of the housing of the constituency is unlikely to be inhabited by ‘very rich people’ in fact most of the housing will be council or social housing. Even the borough of Manchester is a strangely contorted beast which seems to be Manchester town centre combined with the less well off suburbs (a few bits of south man excepted) with the wealthier parts portioned off to Trafford, Stockport, etc.

    • Alexwilliamz

      ??? Manchester constituency or Manchester the wider connurbation? Because very few rich people live in the Manchester constituency.

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