Friday, 21 May 2010

Press Release on Poverty

The DWP has put out a press release called "Government response to Households Below Average Income figures". Before looking at what it says it's worth noting that Steve Webb, the Lib Dem MP, is pensions minister and so may have little input into the Work Programme. It's Iain Duncan Smith who is quoted at length. Some stats are given at the start.
  • In 2008/09 5.8 million working age adults living in relative poverty Before Housing Costs (BHC) and 7.8 million After Housing Costs (AHC). Compared to 2007/08 this represents a rise of 0.2m (BHC) and 0.3m (AHC).
  • The number of people in working-age poverty is the highest since records began.
So what is the solution?
"Vast sums of money have been poured into the benefits system over the last decade in an attempt to address poverty, but today’s statistics clearly show that this approach has failed. Little progress has been made in tackling child poverty, society is more unequal than 50 years ago and there are more working age people living in poverty than ever before. A new approach is needed which addresses the drivers behind poverty and actually improves the outcomes of the millions of adults and children trapped in poverty. It is right that we invest in addressing poverty, but we must focus our resources where they will be most effective. Work, for the vast majority of people, is the best route out of poverty. Yet the current welfare system is trapping in dependency the very people it is designed to help. The rise in working age poverty and continued inequality show that we must make work pay and the first choice for millions of people. It is not right that someone can actually be worse off by taking work, we should be rewarding such positive behaviour by making work pay. Likewise, we must demand a return on our investment in work programmes. It is crucial that we fully support people making the transition into work, but tax payers’ money should be spent on initiatives that work and make a difference to people’s lives. The time for piecemeal reform has ended. There has never been a more pressing need for fundamental radical reform and we will waste no time in acting."

There is little that one could disagree with there. But what it will mean in practice is not yet clear. What are "initiatives that work"? Dare we suppose that IDS has twigged that current provision doesn't work? What role have the private companies played already in shaping the "fundamental radical reform"?

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