Below is a letter I sent to my MP asking why the government feels it necessary to commit time and money to repeating this research, rather than tackling the roots of poverty in this country. If you'd like to, please do feel free to send the same letter to your MP. You can find your MP's contact details at www.writetothem.com/ Please make sure you include your full name and address at the end of the letter or your MP will not be able to respond.
I was interested to read in the news on 14th November 2012 that Iain Duncan Smith is launching a consultation to look at the factors and measures involved in defining child poverty. I believe this is extremely important, given that the Children's Society estimates that around 4 million children are living in poverty in the UK, of which just 1.7 million are elligible for free school meals and only 1.2 million are taking up the resource. I am very keen to see more accurate measures being used, particularly if it means more specific support to lift more families out of poverty.
However, I was also disappointed that the plans for this are to commission research and consultation to determine these factors. On 29th May 2012 UNICEF launched their Report Card 10: Measuring Child Poverty in the House of Commons. The comprehensive report looks at the current factors and definitions of child poverty, and suggests a range of other factors that should be taken into consideration. It is freely available online at http://www.unicef.org.uk/Latest/Publications/child-poverty-uk-statistics-report-card-10/
UNICEF recommends a list of 14 essentials, of which a child need only be lacking 3 to be considered as living in poverty. These include housing, security, education, food and nutrition and opportunities. With the current child poverty measure, counting children living in families earning less than 60% of the average income, the UK ranks at 22nd in the world. Using UNICEF's child deprivation measure, the UK moves up to 9th in the world.
I find myself questioning why the government feels it necessary to replicate the work already completed by UNICEF. Surely repeating the research after only 6 months can only serve to delay the progress in alleviating poverty amongst children and families across the UK? I realise that lifting families out of poverty is an expensive business, but is that not more reason not to waste money commissioning research that has already recently been completed?
I look forward to hearing from you,