Quarter of households now living “in poverty” The Times, 11/09/00 (aslib)

Being poor is...you can't afford a party The Times, 11/09/00 (aslib)

Basics denied to 2m children
The Guardian, 11/09/00

Are you in poverty?
Daily Mail, 11/09/00

One sixth of Britain’s children living below the poverty line The Independent, 11/09/00

Quarter of Brits “are living in poverty”
Daily Record, 11/09/00

Talking cheap on poverty
The Observer,

“Sharp rise” in numbers living in poverty
Financial Times, 11/09/00

Seventeen percent of Britons in third world poverty
Daily Express, 11/09/00

Blair’s child poverty target will be a monumental task Evening Standard, 11/09/00

Rise in number living in poverty
Glasgow Herald, 11/09/00


Basics denied to 2m children

John Carvel, social affairs editor
Monday September 11, 2000
The Guardian

Two million children in Britain are being brought up in such poverty that they lack at least two basic necessities, according to alarming research published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

In the most comprehensive survey of deprivation conducted in this country, social scientists from four universities found 14.5m people were too poor to afford essentials. Comparing the results with previous Breadline Britain surveys, they estimated that the proportion of households living in poverty grew from 14% in 1983 to 24% last year.

The survey charted the mountain the government must climb to deliver Tony Blair's commitment to eliminate child poverty within a generation.

The researchers' starting point was a survey by the office for national statistics last year to establish what parents think are necessities for children. A majority identified 27 items.

Further surveys found that nearly half the children in households classified as poor were not deprived of anything on the list. They deduced this was because the parents sacrificed their own needs.

But about 4m children (34%) lacked at least one essential item and 2m (18%) went without two or more; one in 50 did not have new, properly fitted shoes, a warm waterproof coat or daily fresh fruit and vegetables; one in 25 went without celebrations on special occasions, educational games and meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent at least twice a day. The essential that most commonly lacked was a holiday away once a year, denied to 21.8% of children.

To avoid accusations of overstating the problem, the reseachers reserved the description "necessity deprived" for the 2m children without two or more of the essentials.

Deprivation rates were highest in homes where the adults were unemployed or worked part time, in lone parent households, large families, homes with a chronically sick or disabled person and families of non-white ethnic origin.

The findings were part of a wider study of how many adults lack necessities that most people think everyone should be able to afford.

This found that 9.5m people cannot afford to keep their homes adequately heated, free from damp or decorated; 8m cannot afford one or more goods such as a fridge, telephone or carpets; 4m cannot afford fruit and vegetables or two meals a day; 6.5m go without clothing such as a warm waterproof coat; about 10m cannot afford regular savings of £10 a month or more; and 7.5m are too poor for social activities such as visiting friends and family, or attending weddings and funerals.

The report said the proportion of households living in long-term poverty fell from 4% in 1983 to 2.5% in 1999. This meant poverty had not deepened but broadened, with millions more people unable to afford things the majority of the population thought essentials.

The research was based on nationally representative samples of more than 1,500.

• Poverty and social exclusion in Britain, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, £15.95

Essentials, and who can afford them

Item / % who say items are necessary / % who cannot afford them

Beds/bedding for all 95 / 1

Heating for living areas 94 / 1

Damp-free home 93 / 6

Visiting friends or family in hospital 92 / 3

Two meals a day 91 / 1

Prescribed medicines 90 / 1

Refrigerator 89 / 0.1

Fresh fruit and veg daily 86 / 4

Warm, waterproof coat 85 / 4

Ability to replace or repair broken electrical goods 85 / 12

Visits to friends or family 84 / 2

Celebrating special occasions (eg Christmas) 83 / 2

Home in decent state of decoration 82 / 14

Visits to school (sports day) 81 / 2

Attending weddings and funerals 80 / 3

Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day 79 / 3

Insuring home contents 79 / 8

Hobby or leisure activity 78 / 7

Washing machine 76 / 1

Collect children from school 75 / 2

Telephone 71 / 1

Appropriate clothes for job interviews 69 / 4

Deep freezer/fridge freezer 68 / 2

Living/bedroom carpets 67 / 3

Regular savings of £10 a month 66 / 21

Two pairs of all-weather shoes 64 / 5

Having friends or family around for a meal 64 / 6

Small amount to spend on self weekly 59 / 13

Television 56 / 1

Roast joint/vegetarian equivalent, weekly 56 / 3

Presents for friends and family once a year 56 / 3

Annual holiday away from home (not with relatives) 55 / 18

Replace worn-out furniture 54 / 12

Dictionary 53 / 5

Outfit for social occasions 51 / 4

• Items omitted because less that 50% thought them necessary include car, dressing gown, daily newspaper, evening out once a fortnight, microwave oven, video, dishwasher, mobile phone and access to internet

Talking cheap on poverty

If this protest has taught us anything, it's that helping the poor costs and it's a cost we must pay

Mary Riddell
Sunday September 17, 2000
The Observer

The poor are the new rich. Or so you might assume from some reactions to last week's report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which disclosed that a quarter of all Britons are living in poverty. 'Being poor means you can't afford a dinner party,' scoffed one report, conjuring up the vision of a dearth of Krug and roasted quail as the determinant of deprivation. In fact, being able to invite friends or family round, even for baked beans on toast, was low on the survey's list of basic necessities, which included beds, a damp-free home, a warm coat and a dictionary.

The final item, the Daily Telegraph implied, might be of benefit to the Rowntree Foundation, accused in the paper's leader column of 'an assault on what words mean'. How dare researchers be 'shocked' at the finding that 17 per cent of British adults believe they are living in 'absolute poverty' as defined by the United Nations? What an insult to the poorest children in the world that citizens of the tenth richest country on the planet should muscle in on their status.

Leaving aside the fact that the Telegraph rarely directs its ire towards, say, the fate of Iraqi children condemned to hardship and death by Western sanctions, it is hard to accuse the Rowntree researchers of undue hyperbole. Under their methodology, two million children - or one in six - lack the necessities of life. This is relatively conservative, compared with Unicef's total of 4.5 million or the latest Office of National Statistics estimate of three million, based on a poverty line of less than 60 per cent of median income. But however you stack up the figures, the picture remains similar.

On the Rowntree assessment, poverty - as defined both by low income and multiple deprivation - increased by more than a tenth between 1983 and last year. The poor, emphatically, are not the new rich. On the contrary, the rich are the new poor. One of the more surreal aspects of the petrol blockade was the right-wing assertion that the campaign for cheaper fuel was undertaken on behalf of the 'poorest in society'; always a useful totem in times of crisis. Since the poorest do not drive, the only likely winners were the better off - those Middle Englanders who submitted to the ordeal of taking to the roads on brand-new mountain bikes in search of the last chilled coronation chicken in Waitrose, hopeful that their impoverishment would at last be recognised.

And so it might be. Never mind that the moderately well-off, beneficiaries of a 1p cut in income tax and among the lightest overall taxation in Europe, have a shaky claim on deprivation. They are self-styled victors in round one of the battle for lower petrol duty, and the Prime Minister, for all his professions of obduracy, will have to listen. And where does that leave the destitute? Already there is speculation that the pre-Budget report in November, expected to focus on poor pensioners, may instead be skewed towards balm for irate drivers. Blair is in a bind. To some extent, it is one of his own devising.

In June 1997, he issued his pledge to the dispossessed. His stage set was the concrete walkways and stinking stairwells of the Aylesbury estate in Southwark, south London, and his message was unequivocal. 'For 18 years, the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government. There will be no forgotten people in the Britain I want to build.' Of course, even the most stone-hearted of administrations bear in mind Aristotle's tenet that 'poverty is the parent of revolution and crime' and must be, where possible, minimised. In an age when Germinal -style insurrection seems the monopoly of the well-heeled wishing to skim a penny or two off the price of a litre of super-unleaded, the poor retain the sanction of inflating crime statistics, clogging up the NHS and depressing school league tables.

Though the charge of cynicism may be unfair, the Government has certainly been guilty of a plethora of fatuous tactics. If only the poor would lock up their delinquent children after dark, eat their broccoli, keep their squeegees off the windscreens of impoverished motorists, eschew divorce and follow the David Blunkett DIY guide to assisting with homework, they and we would all be better off. Such nanny statism tends to ignore evidence that discrepancies in health and education are not merely the result of lifestyle choices or even poor income. Inequality itself is the killer. Fat-cat bosses, beneficiaries of a 72 per cent pay rise since 1994, are less prone to stress than their worst-paid workers. A labourer on 40 cigarettes a day runs a greater health risk than a chief executive. The less-privileged worker is, as a correspondent once wrote to Harry Truman, 'an eight-ulcer man on four-ulcer pay'.

Blair is aware of all that. Hence his raft of worthwhile policies for the poor; a sincere attempt to redress the balance. The trouble is that reducing inequality has always been a subversive crusade in which New Labour, despite evidence of voter support for welfare spending, has shirked saying that higher taxation is the price of a fairer society with benefits to all. Instead it has preferred a patchwork of indirect taxes and backdoor redistribution designed to spare Middle England any suspicion that it is being clobbered. But now Mondeo man is at the barricades; partly because he has been propelled there by the right-wing press but also because Blair has allowed the myth of the something-for-nothing society to flourish. Meanwhile, convenient sources of cash for social projects - tax treatment of pension funds, the windfall levy on the privatised utilities - diminish. The Government is running out of road.

In a paper published last week, John Hills, a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, says that 'inequality clearly rose at the start of Labour's time in office'. Its record after the first 18 months bears two interpretations, according to Hills. The first is that its programme, though cheaper than an 'Old Labour' policy of uprating benefits with incomes, has delivered as much to low-income groups while also improving work incentives. The alternative view is that 'tax and benefit reforms have only barely delivered enough to the lowest income groups to prevent inequality rising. By themselves the measures may stem the rising tide of inequality but not reverse it'. Either way, Hills argues that more money will have to be ploughed in to prevent back-sliding on any progress so far.

While not a wholesale indictment, such an assessment - coupled with the Rowntree Foundation's bleak audit of very recent figures - does not suggest that the DSS's own survey on poverty, out in a few days, will be entitled 'Mission Accomplished'. Nor does a chronicle of, at best, creeping progress and, at worst, mounting inequality echo Blair's ringing putsch on poverty, delivered on the Aylesbury estate.

Since then, the very rich have thrived alarmingly. A combination of lavishly-trumpeted initiatives and grand, if distant, targets, such as eliminating child poverty by 2020, has fostered the idea that the worst-off are faring a lot better than they are. This comfortable misconception has lulled the affluent of Middle England into the barely-challenged notion that they are the ones deserving of a break: this time on petrol prices and, if that ploy works, perhaps a whole lot more besides.

Of course it is easy, and correct, to rail against piratical oil companies and arrogant Ministers. But Blair's problem is not bullishness but timidity. It is time now to acknowledge that if we want better public services and a substantial erosion of poverty, we shall have to pay for them upfront. If that lesson is learned, then the petrol protesters, unalluring as they are, will have done us all a big favour.

One-sixth of Britain's children living below the poverty line

Cherry Norton, social affairs editor
11 September 2000
The Independent

More than two million British children are having to go without two or more necessities such as adequate clothing or three meals a day, an extensive report on poverty reveals.

The report, by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also said that almost 17 per cent of adults believe they are living in "absolute poverty" - those questioned said they could not afford basic human needs, among which they included certain food, prescription medicines, housing and heating.

"Absolute poverty" has been defined by the United Nations to assess poverty in the developing world; the researchers said they were "shocked" to find that so many people in Britain said they could not afford what were considered necessities the world over.

Just over one-quarter of all households in Britain were said by researchers to be "poor", with a further 10.3 per cent "vulnerable to poverty". In the Nineties, more than 60,000 households - equivalent to the number of homes in a city the size of Brighton or Milton Keynes - joined the poor each year.

The findings also showed that 70 per cent of those on income support were "poor". Sue Middleton, of the Centre for Research in Social Policy, at Loughborough University, said the working families tax credit, heralded as a means of helping single parents go back to work, was set too low to meet basic health and food needs.

In an initial survey, 90 per cent of those questioned for the 1999 Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey said that everyone should be "able to afford and not have to do without": bedding, heating in their living areas, a damp-free home, a visit to a friend or relative in hospital, two meals a day and prescribed medicines. More than half considered as "necessities" a television, washing machine, fridge, freezer, and an outfit for social occasions.

From a second survey, the researchers calculated that approximately 9.5 million people were unable to afford to keep heat their homes adequately, or keep them damp-free or in a "decent state of decoration".

About eight million were not able to afford one or more essential household goods; about four million were not fed properly, defined as not being able to afford fresh fruit or vegetables at least once a day, or two meals a day; and more than 6.5 million adults did not possess essential clothing such as a waterproof coat, the study said. About four million children are going without at least one essential item, such as adequate clothing, a healthy diet, or items to help their educational development, the report said. One in 50 does not have shoes that fit and does not eat fresh fruit or vegetables every day. More than one in six children, equal to two million, goes without two or more "necessities" such as adequate clothing, three meals a day, and toys.

The study, by researchers from four universities, has been compared with two Breadline Britain surveys carried out in 1983 and 1990. Between those years the number of poor households increased by almost 50 per cent. In 1983, 14 per cent of families were said to be living in poverty; this grew to 21 per cent in 1990 and is now above 24 per cent.

Dr David Gordon, of the University of Bristol, one of the authors of the report, said: "This rapid increase in poverty occurred during a period when the majority of British households were becoming more and more wealthy... During the Nineties poverty grew at a rate equivalent to all the households in a city the size of Brighton or Milton Keynes becoming poor each year."

Another of the authors, Jonathan Bradshaw, a professor at the University of York, said: "Britain now stands at a crossroads in terms of adopting effective measures to stop and to reverse the damaging structural trends that have increase poverty and social exclusion in the past 20 years."

Quarter of Brits “are living in poverty”

11th September 2000
Daily Record

More people are living below the breadline in Britain than at any other time in the last 20 years, according to a report out today.

About 15 million people are too poor to be able to afford what many regard as the basic necessities of life. Researchers also found that the rich are becoming richer, with the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" getting bigger.

Almost a quarter of the population has to go without at least three items seen as necessities - such as three meals a day and sufficient clothing and heating.

Two million children - about a third of all youngsters - live in households where they are not being properly fed and their parents cannot afford to buy toys, clothes or pay for them to join in out-of-school activities.

The figures are based upon a report commissioned by the Office for National Statistics. Researchers believe the answer is to increase benefits payments. Anti-poverty groups want the government to bring in a minimum income.

Child Poverty Action Group director Martin Barnes said: "The survey highlights the fact that more action is needed if the government are to deliver on their promise to end child poverty".

“Sharp rise” in numbers living in poverty

Financial Times
11th September 2000

More than a quarter of Britain's population have entered the 21st century living in poverty, according to a report published today.

The report, which concludes that poverty rates have "risen sharply" since the early 1980s, will fuel criticism of the government that it has neglected many of Labour's core supporters.

The poverty and social exclusion survey - involving four universities and the Office for National Statistics - is regarded as the most comprehensive and scientifically rigorous examination of its type ever undertaken. It sought to measure poverty through a combination of income levels and lack of basic necessities.

Since coming to power in 1997 the government has treated poverty and social exclusion as central poverty issues and has pledged to eliminate child poverty within 20 years. The latest survey, which describes growth in poverty as "the most critical social problem that Britain now faces", will fuel pressure for action.

Households living in poverty has increased from 14 percent of the total to 21 percent between 1983 and 1990, and rose again to 24 percent by 1999. By the end of last year 14.5 million people - 26 percent of the population - were living in poverty under the survey's definitions.

The study concedes that poverty was often more severe and life-threatening in the past. But it says that because of population growth in the 20th century, a larger number of people in Britain today are "poor by the standards of the time" than was the case in previous centuries.

Today's survey. published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, finds that 9.5 million people cannot afford to keep their homes adequately heated, damp-free and in a decent state of decoration. Other findings include:

  • Almost 7.5 million people are too poor to engage in social activities such as visiting friends and family or attending weddings and funerals.

  • About 6 million adults go without essential clothing such as a warm waterproof coat.

  • More than 10 million people suffer from financial insecurity in that they are unable to save, insure their house contents or spend even small amounts on themselves.

  • Around 4 million people do not have enough money for fresh fruit and vegetables or two meals a day.

Quarter of households now living “in poverty”

Alexandra Frean, social affairs correspondent
The Times
11th September 2000

Britain has seen a sharp increase in poverty, according to a major study that measures how far people on low incomes can afford the basic necessities of life.

The report, Poverty and Social Exclusion in Britain shows that the proportion of households regarded as living in poverty rose from 14 to 24 per cent between 1983 and 1999. It also provides a snapshot of how a rise in living standards for the majority of the population has been reflected in the items now considered as necessities, such as telephones and freezers.

The growth in relative poverty was most rapid in the 1980s when 1 per cent of households - equivalent to a city the size of Liverpool or Sheffield - became "poor" each year. During the 1990s 0.3 per cent of households - roughly equivalent to Brighton or Milton Keynes - fell behind each year.

The survey, the most comprehensive of its kind, suggests that many of the calculations used to set benefits such as income support and working families tax credit, underestimate the real costs of living in Britain today. Jonathan Bradshaw, of York University, one of the report's authors, said that the single most important task facing the Government was ending poverty and social exclusion.

"Britain now stands at a crossroads in terms of adopting effective measures to stop and reverse the damaging structural trends in the past 20 years" Professor Bradshaw said.

High rates of poverty not only had the effects of worsening health, education and job skills, but they also damaged personal relationships within families and across ethnic groups and society as a whole, he added.

Sue Middleton, another co-author, said that the report showed that the Government's three goals - work for those who can, security for those who cannot and making work pay - were the right ones. It was too early to say, however, if the policies designed to achieve these goals would be effective, particularly for those in low-paid, part-time work.

Dave Gordon, of the University of Bristol, another co-author, said that achieving full employment would not eradicate deprivation and social exclusion.

"Low earning families will still need adequate child benefits and pensioners, disabled people and others unable to work will still need minimally adequate support from the state to meet their needs" Dr Gordon said. "High quality affordable services will also be needed."

A spokesman for the Department of Social Security said that the main period covered by the report occurred before Labour came to power and that it showed why policies aimed at combating child poverty and reducing unemployment were needed.

Martin Barnes of the Child Poverty Action Group said that the study illustrated the need for the introduction of an official minimum income target. "This survey should open up people's eyes to the harsh realities of poverty in Britain today," he said. "We are a rich country, the economy is strong yet millions of families are falling further behind."

Interviewees were also asked whether they thought the definition of poverty employed by the United Nations for developing nations applied to them. This describes poverty as "a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information".

On this basis 17 per cent said that they considered themselves to be in absolute poverty and 26 per cent to be in overall poverty. The amount of money that people said that they needed to escape from absolute poverty was £178 per week, while the amount they would need to escape overall poverty was £239 a week.

Being poor is...you can't afford a party

Alexandra Frean
The Times
11th September 2000

The study, which uses measures such as possession of a television and an outfit for social occasions, as well as the ability to throw a dinner party for friends and family, will reignite the debate on how poverty should be defined.

It defines as "poor" anyone unable to afford at least two basic necessities of life and who is also on a low income, defined as on average £175 a week gross for a couple.

The list of necessities was drawn up after the 2,000 adults in a nationally representative sample were asked what items they considered "everybody should be able to afford and which they should not have to do without". Only items considered essential by 50% of more of respondents were included.

The research found that about 9.5 million people cannot afford to keep their homes adequately heated, free from damp or in a decent state of decoration. Eight million people cannot afford one or more essential household goods, such as a refrigerator, a telephone or carpets for the living areas in their homes.

Four million people are not fed properly by today's standards, being unable to afford fresh fruit and vegetables or two meals a day. Some 6 million adults go without essential clothing such as a warm waterproof coat and 7.5 million cannot afford to attend weddings and funerals, or to have celebrations of special occasions.

Looking at children's lives, the study found that more than two million fell into this definition of poverty. Although almost every parent interviewed agreed that new, properly fitted shoes, a warm waterproof coat and daily fresh fruit and vegetables were essential for children, the study showed that one in 50 went without them.

Poverty rates were highest in homes where no adult had any work, where adults worked part-time, in single-parent households, among local authority tenants, in households where someone was chronically sick or disabled and in families of non-white ethnic origin.

Overall, 58 per cent of the population lacked none of the items on the list and 24 per cent lacked two or more and had a low income. Of all the items considered a necessity, the one that most people could not afford was "regular savings of £10 per month for rainy days or retirement", lacked by 25 per cent of households, followed by "a holiday away from home once a year not with relatives", lacked by 18 per cent.

Comparisons with poverty levels over time were based on two earlier "Breadline Britain" surveys conducted in 1983 and 1990. A significant fact to emerge from the comparisons is that although poverty ahs become more widespread, it has not deepened. Between 1990 and 1999, the proportion of households living in chronic long-term poverty fell from 4 per cent to 2.5 per cent.

Are you in poverty?

Steve Doughty, Social affairs correspondent
Daily Mail
11th September 2000

More than a quarter of Britons are living in poverty, a report claimed yesterday. Millions must be counted as poor because they lack some of the basic essentials of modern life, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

It defined as poor anyone who could not afford three or more items from a list of 35 'necessities'. These included an annual holiday, proper heating and daily fresh fruit and vegetables. But other items considered necessities included household contents insurance, a hobby and a dictionary.

Anyone living on less than £239 a week after tax and deductions should be considered to be in "overall poverty", the Rowntree report said. It claimed that its findings "confirm the picture that poverty rates have risen sharply".

The report added: "In 1983 14 per cent of households lacked three or more necessities because they could not afford them. That proportion had increased to 21 per cent in 1990 and to over 24 per cent in 1999. "By the end of 1999 a quarter - 26 per cent of the population - were living in poverty, measured in terms of low income and multiple deprivation of necessities"

The study was criticised as 'ridiculous' by opponents of the poverty lobby, which ahs for years been trying to demonstrate that the poorest are getting poorer. The Rowntree foundation changed the way it measures poverty after criticisms of its previous methods. In the past it counted as poor those whose income was less than half the national average. However, as well as indicating that the poor were getting poorer, this tended to imply that British children were worse off than those in Turkey, Poland or Hungary.

The new report consider things which, researchers say, most people consider necessities. They were used by the Foundation after being named by the majority of those consulted in a survey run by the Office for National Statistics.

Items included replacement or repair of electrical goods, Christmas celebrations, money to keep the home in a decent state, a telephone, clothes for job interviews, a social outfit, savings of £10 a month and a small amount to spend on self rather than family every week.

Items discounted by researchers included a television, a fridge and freezer, a washing machine and beds for each member of the family. People were asked to say where they thought poverty lines should be drawn. Absolute poverty was considered to be £178 a week after tax, general poverty £219 and overall poverty £239. this compares with a poverty line of £161.50 a week which would have been obtained under the old measurement based on average household income of £323 a week in 1999.

The report found that overwhelmingly the poorest were single mothers and their children, and families in which nobody had a job. Critics of the Rowntree survey, produced by a team including Professor Peter Townsend of Bristol University, attacked the findings.

Professor David Marsland of Brunel University said: "They have stopped using the old measure of relative poverty. They had to give that up because it didn't show what it was supposed to show.

"They have dreamed up a new method that is patently ridiculous. If someone lacks three of the things on their list, it means that they have got all the others. That is a ludicrous way to say someone is poor"

Seventeen percent of Britons in third world poverty

Kirsty Walker, Social affairs correspondent
Daily Express
11th September 2001

One third of British children are so poor that they go without such bare essentials as three meals a day and clothing, a major report reveals today. Nearly one in five of the population is living in "absolute" poverty - a term used by the United Nations to describe the extreme state endured by people in the third world.

Between 1983 and 1990, the number of households living in poverty increased by 50 per cent. The study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is the most comprehensive and detailed look at poverty and social exclusion in Britain ever conducted. It will provide worrying reading for the Labour Government, who have pledged to eradicate child poverty within the next two decades.

Researchers asked a large sample of adults to draw up a list of household items and activities that everyone in britain should be able to afford and not have to do without.

Ninety per cent of the sample listed beds and bedding, a damp-free home, heating in living areas, the ability to visit friends and family in hospital, two meals a day and prescribed medicines.

A second survey found that nearly 10 million people cannot afford to look after their homes of keep them heated, while four million do not have enough money for fresh fruit and vegetables to provide for two meals a day.

According to the list, 35 items were labelled as necessities for an acceptable standard of living. but a quarter of the population lacked two or more items and had a low income. Eight million cannot afford such items as a fridge or telephone.

Dr David Gordon from the University of Bristol and one of the team of academics who conducted the study said: "We expected to find no 'absolute' poverty in Britain as defined by the United Nations, yet 17 per cent of people in this country fell into this category, which is normally used to describe people living in the developing world.

We were very shocked by the findings - this is Great Britain, not India. Everyone in this country should be able to feed their children three meals a day and clothe them."

While Dr Gordon admitted that the report made depressing readig, there were some signs that the situation may be improving. The speed at which poverty has spread over the last 20 years slowed down during the 1990s and the number of people living in "chronic long-term poverty" has dropped from four per cent of households to 2.5 per cent.

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw of the University of York said: "Britain now stands at a crossroads in terms of adopting effective measures to stop and to reverse the damaging structural trends that have increase poverty and social exclusion in the past 20 years."

"If Britain is to become an inclusive society in which everyone has a stake and is able to participate, then the most important task facing government is ending poverty and social exclusion."

While the researchers said that the nature of the study made it difficult to pinpoint the effectiveness of the Labour Government's policies, they said that there were question marks over whether their policies went far enough.

Dr Sue Middleton of Loughborough University who analysed the data on child poverty said: "This research shows that the Government has absolutely to make the eradication of poverty one of its highest commitments."

Blair’s child poverty target will be a monumental task

Evening Standard,
11th September 20

Today's report on poverty in Britain is certain to provoke controversy. Can one person in four - more than 14 million people - really be said to be too poor to afford the necessities of life? That central fact, from the study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is certainly open to dispute. The "poverty line" is an arbitrary concept. Different people can draw it in different places.

However, wherever that line is drawn, three observations should be beyond dispute. The first is that at least as many, and possibly more, people live in poverty today than 10 years ago. The second is that poverty these days afflicts children and young adults more than the elderly.

The third, and perhaps most important, Rowntree finding is that poverty is far more evenly spread around Britain than simple north-south analysis of income data would lead people to believe. Indeed, it finds that poverty is more common in London than in the north, and almost as common in the "prosperous" South East outside London as in the "poor" north. Applying Rowntree's definition of poverty - the inability to afford three or more of the things that most people consider necessities - 30 per cent of Londoners are poor, but so are 21 per cent of the South East. The figure for Northern England is 24 per cent.

These figures seem to contradict statistics showing that gross domestic product per person is far higher in the South than the North. So how do we explain Rowntree's findings? One factor is that the income data for London and the South East includes a minority who have prospered hugely in recent years. Many of the least well off have continued to struggle to make ends meet.

The good news for Tony Blair is that Rowntree's study upholds his view that the "north-south divide" is overblown. The bad news is that the effort needed to fulfil the Prime Minister's promise to eliminate child poverty within 20 years will be more monumental than any minister has yet acknowledged.

Rise in number living in poverty

Jennifer Cunningham
Glasgow Herald
11th September 2000

One quarter of the UK population was living in poverty at the end of last year, more than at any time in the last 20 years. A new survey which poverty both as low income and the lack of items considered necessities confirms that while the majority of the population has become richer, there has been a parallel dramatic rise in the number of people in poverty.

The division is even greater among children, with 34% of children being brought up in households where they lack one or more item regarded as essential and 18% in households lacking two or more items ranging from new properly fitted shoes and a waterproof coat to after-school activities.

This finding will fuel demand for the government to spell out the fiscal and practical measures to achieve what the Prime Minister described last year as a "20 year mission to end child poverty forever".

The survey provides evidence that the problem is much more deep-rooted and more serious than than has been realised by the government, according to one of the lead researchers, Professor Peter Townsend of the London School of Economics and the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at Bristol University.

"We have a much greater problem of two nations than even Disraeli talked about. Of course the times are very different, but we have a major problem where the global market is producing a situation where the amount of social division is getting worse," he said.

The Child Poverty Action Group immediately called for a minimum income target for families and children. Mr Martin Barnes, director of CPAG, said: "More action is needed if the government is going to deliver on it s promise to end child poverty. While we welcome the plans for an integrated child credit, the new payment must be set at a level which is sufficient to end income poverty for children and families."

His call for "a greater sense of urgency and outrage that the lives of so many children in this country are blighted by hardship" is precisely what the authors of the report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which says it is the most comprehensive and rigorous of its type ever conducted, hope to stimulate.

It found that more than 90% of the population think that beds and bedding for everyone, heating to warm living areas of the home, a damp-free home, the ability to visit friends and family in hospital, two meals a day and prescribed medicines are necessities which adults should not have to do without because they cannot afford them. Less than 10% of the population sees a dishwasher, a mobile phone, Internet access or satellite television as necessities. The survey also found that visiting family and friends and attending weddings and funerals are considered among the necessities of life.

Significantly the survey has found that poverty appears to have become more widespread but not to have deepened over the 1990s. "Between 1990 and 1999 the proportion of households living in chronic long-term poverty fell from 4% of households to 2.5% of households", where chronic poverty is lacking three or more necessities and people classifying themselves as genuinely poor "all the time" now and having lived in poverty "often" or "most of the time" in the past.

By the most commonly used measure of child poverty - household income of more than 50% of the average - over a third of British children were living in poverty by 1998-9. The Rowntree researchers argue that is a flawed measure because there is evidence to show that, in poorer families, the proportion of income spent on children is higher than average and that their approach based on socially-perceived necessities can produce a poverty line specifically related to children.

Maintained by: Eldin Fahmy
Last updated: 06/03/02