How we understand poverty is changing, or at least that’s the message that Iain Duncan Smith sent out with Friday’s consultation launch to find a multidimensional child poverty measure. The consultation forms part of a succession of moves away from solely income-based measures and towards wider measures that better represent the reality of living in poverty.
At the moment, the Child Poverty Act’s relative low income measure says a child is in poverty if they live in a household with below 60 per cent of median income. That’s about £384 per week for a two parent, two child family and £301 per week for a single parent with two children.
Whilst this does highlight the difficulties families have getting by financially, especially when you think about the cost of necessities like rent/mortgage, heating, clothes and food, it does not capture the whole story. Focussing solely on low income does not illustrate the day-to-day experience of living in poverty. Our work with Demos up in Scotland shows how we can take more into account, exploring the different kinds of disadvantages that families experience, from overcrowding to poor health.
In a couple of weeks, we’re launching a ground-breaking project that takes our understanding of multidimensional poverty even further. Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and in collaboration with Demos, we’ll identify typologies of poverty based of an analysis of our Understanding Society data and interviews with people on low income.
This will help capture the complex interactions of some of the fundamental experiences of poverty, such as people’s debts, financial worries, housing problems, poor health, neighbourhood deprivation, and educational and social opportunities. This project both goes much deeper than previously used measures, eliciting more about the experience of poverty than income alone can - but it also maintains that low income should be at the heart of measuring poverty.
Establishing a measure that captures the multidimensionality of poverty could inspire policy solutions that are about more than just giving people money. Also, the typologies we identify could help policy makers target policies to fit the particular circumstances of specific groups.
Demos is holding an event to present the findings of this research. Click here if you'd like to attend the event. The full findings will be available on the project website from the day of the launch.