By Lesley Roberts, for Welfare Weekly.
Using people’s lack of achievements as a marker of poverty is a totally unreliable way to measure child poverty, in any society. I have a reasonably high IQ and have a studied to a high level, but if it wasn’t for living with my “hard working” partner I would be in poverty.
Take for instance, many students who leave University with a high level of debt who may not all get well paid jobs – but still go on to have families. Many of these ‘self-same students’, even though they took up part-time employment to put themselves through university, may end up in poverty because of the many life changing events that can and do happen; no amount of educational ability will stop you from becoming disabled or seriously ill.
Iain Duncan Smith wanting to change the definition of child Poverty is totally understandable from a political standpoint. Because the present level of child poverty goes against the belief that their policies are working. I, like most of you, have read so many comments about “smoke and mirrors” to be able to question whether this is just another one. My answer is yes, it’s all part of the game of politics, not to tell us what is really happening out there.
Take unemployment, one of the main causes of child poverty, the stats are changing because as the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have stated, quiet clearly, that unemployment levels are no longer an official statistic even though it is still available online, in some form, why?
If you look at the current changes between JSA claimants and the roll out of Universal Credits, you can clearly see how it is changing the ability of the ONS to have clear stats for unemployment. An indication that clearly shows how effective changing the definition of child poverty will be for Iain Duncan Smith and how it will be used to hide the realities of many families, as the austerity cuts bite further.
Do they really think we cannot understand that families who are forced to live on less money, when their already poor, will not push them over the edge and into total poverty? Do we really need a new definition of child poverty to describe the levels of poverty when a family has no income because their parents have been sanctioned to meet targets? Surely the numbers of families living with no income, because of Iain Duncan Smith’s “stick”, would be a far better indication of poverty than their “educational and employment statue”, or that of their parents?
Yes, by all means take stock of the educational abilities of families but turning our country into a meritocracy status quo will only create higher levels of poverty, not less, because all you will be doing is ignoring the effects of continued austerity.
You can’t improve people’s abilities by constantly whipping them or moving the goal posts. I still have no idea how this Tory Government intends to measure our individual potentials and our ability to reach them; other than knowing we will be blamed for our ‘lack of potential’, not the misfortunes that life hands us. Lets’ face it, that is exactly what this Tory Government keeps indicating via their propaganda machine; the poor are to blame for being poor.
Now what about unemployment, a major factor in raising level of poverty. I hope you check this out for yourselves because there seems to be a bit of confusion here, because Universal Credit is skewing the claimant count. “UC estimates are still being developed by the Department for Work and Pensions”: I bet you’re thinking the same way as me, what do they mean by “developed”?
Perhaps the DWP estimates could lead to a poor provision of information, based upon a political need – and that’s putting it politely. Or as stated in a letter from John Pullinger CB, National Statistician to Ed Humpherson, Director, General Regulation UK Statistics Authority, available on the ONS website:
“As the national roll-out of UC, which started in February 2015, proceeds, the undercount arising from continuing to use JSA data is increasing and its usefulness is decreasing.”
So what happened in the trial areas before it was rolled out? The letter goes on to say how they are “working with the DWP to secure the provision of data on “jobseeker” UC claimants which will match the definition of the Claimant Count and enable us to make rapid progress on meeting this goal”.
The “goal” is to work toward providing true figures and not just “estimates”, if DWP do not manipulate the figures before they hand them over.
The ONS states: “Ideally only those Universal Credit claimants who are out of work and required to seek work should be included in the Claimant Count but it is not currently possible to produce estimates on this basis. The Claimant Count therefore currently includes some out of work claimants of Universal Credit who are not required to look for work; for example, due to illness or disability.”
“The estimates continue to provide an accurate measure of the number of people claiming JSA, but they are no longer the best estimate of the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits.”
How can they be accurate but not the “best”? Is someone scared of losing their job if they say what were all thinking, that Universal Credit (UC) is being used to manipulate the claimant count? When David Cameron stated unemployment is down, what figures was he actually using and why doesn’t he admit how UC is affecting those “estimates”?
Are we so lacking in intelligence that we cannot work out the causes of child poverty for ourselves? We can all see that the Tories want to change the definition of child poverty to hide the very real effects of their draconian austerity policies from the voting public.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.