Government 'on course' to meet short-term poverty goals

The government is on course to meet its short-term target for reducing child poverty, according to projections for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The foundation has said that around one million children will have been taken out of poverty by the spring of 2004, compared with 1997. But while the government may just succeed in reaching its first milestone of reducing child poverty by a quarter by 2004, the foundation says that achieving its longer-term targets of halving poverty by 2010, and eradicating it ‘within a generation’, will be "more difficult to achieve".

Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Economics found that relative poverty – measured as households with less than 60% of the national mid-point income – fell by around one million between 1996/7 and 2000/1, including half a million children.

This was largely due to increasing levels of employment and above-inflation increase in some benefits, especially those for families with children. The overall national increase in incomes since 1997 has served to raise the poverty threshold, with the result that the actual reduction in child poverty is likely to be around one million, according to the research.

The study also anticipates a significant fall in poverty among pensioners between 1997 and 2003/4. However, the assessment of how many older people have been taken out of poverty depends heavily on which income measurement is used.

Holly Sutherland, Director of the Microsimulation Unit at Cambridge University and co-author of the report, said: “Rising employment – ‘work for those who can’ – has made a real contribution to reducing poverty in the past six years, but there are limits to how much further employment measures can be expected to reduce poverty.

“Without the recent improvements made to the tax and benefit system for those with low incomes, poverty would be much worse. But it is also clear that more help will need to be directed towards poorer households if the government is to reach its longer-term targets. Staying on track to halve child poverty by 2010 will be increasingly hard to achieve and require substantially more redistribution of national income towards the poorest families.”


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