Working paper 02/052 - Abstract

Eradicating Child Poverty in Britain: Welfare Reform and Children Since 1997 (PDF, file 169 KB) (PDF, 169kB)

Mike Brewer and Paul Gregg

In 1997 the new Labour government in the UK inherited a situation where nearly one in 5 children lived in a household where no adult worked and around one in 3 lived in relative poverty. Children had replaced pensioners as the poorest group in society. The incoming government set about an ambitious set of reforms designed to reduce poverty and worklessness amongst families with children. This policy reform agenda contained some features akin to the welfare reform process being undertaken in the US since 1996. But with one fundamental difference, that welfare payments to jobless families rose rapidly and there is no time restriction in access to these payments.

This paper describes the key features of the welfare reform process and documents the reforms to welfare payments and in particular contrasts them with the US system. The results show that the reformed UK welfare support system, taxes and benefits, for children is more generous to low-income families with children but less for better off families. So the UK system is more progressive among families with children. The paper goes on to look at the emerging evidence of the impact of the UK policy reform process on poverty and welfare dependence.

Published in Walker and Wiseman (eds)'The Welfare We Want', Policy Press Bristol (2003)