New child poverty measure ‘fatally flawed’, say British churches

By agency reporter
15 Feb 2013

Four major British churches have criticised government proposals for a new way of measuring child poverty in the UK, which they say masks the problem.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have accused the Government’s consultation on the proposals of being "confused" and "surprisingly badly evidenced".

“Child poverty is an unacceptable injustice,” said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church. “While we applaud the Government’s commitment to eradicating child poverty in the UK, the proposed new measure is fatally flawed. It is a confusion of targets, measures and, most disturbingly, the Government’s beliefs about what causes poverty, backed by very little solid evidence.”

The proposed new ‘multi-dimensional’ poverty measure, aims to take a variety of measures that the Government believes are linked with poverty and use these to create a single number to represent UK child poverty. Surprisingly, most of the measures combined in the proposals are more commonly found in those living outside of poverty than those inside.

Of particular concern is the fact that, despite the majority of families in poverty coming from working families, the Government wants to focus on worklessness as a measure of poverty.

“Excluding or diminishing the experience of low-paid families from any future measure of poverty would be a serious failing,” added Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Leader for the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

“Such people work tough jobs, often with unsocial hours. We agree that is vital to measure things such as unemployment and disability. These things can help us understand British society and the place of poverty within it. However, these factors combined make for a very bad measure of child poverty. Only robust, well-evidenced indicators of poverty should be used to measure child poverty,” he commented

Next month the four Churches are due to publish a major report entitled The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending Comfortable Myths About Poverty.

The report will confront some of the common myths that people believe about those on benefits in the UK.

“Poverty is not just an issue facing the poor – it’s a societal problem and one that shames us all,” added Marie Trubic, United Reformed Church spokesperson on public issues.

“As Christians we believe that we all have a duty to take responsibility for the injustices that have become embedded in the society we have built," she said.

"We should not simply accept the status quo and blame the poor for their circumstances. Instead, we must find new ways to build a fairer future for all,” concluded Ms Trubic, echoing comments from all four churches.

[Ekk/3]

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