The fact that the Government will almost certainly miss its child poverty targets was the cheery news from Alan Milburn, the former Labour Minister and an adviser to David Cameron on social mobility. What has been missed in the discussion, though, is that the current measures of poverty are so absurd as to be almost irrelevant.
The Government is bound by a system of measurement set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010. The headline measure defines child poverty rates based on the number of children living in households whose income falls below 60 per cent of the median income. This bears little relationship to what poverty actually looks like.
People are poor when they cannot participate in society. This means not being able to afford the basics, like housing, clothing and food etc, but it also means not being able to play a meaningful part in what is happening around them – probably in 2011, this means things like not being able to pay for the internet.
The way we currently measure poverty for the child poverty targets completely fails to take this into account.
The current recession provides the most striking illustration of this. In recessions, median incomes typically fall, and since the poverty line is pegged to median incomes, it falls alongside. So statistically, an economic crisis can actually “reduc