Alison Garnham believes that the coalition government is in danger of emulating Margaret Thatcher’s record on poverty.
Well, great! No?
“It has been said her governments did two things for poverty: they increased it, then they pretended it did not exist. The coalition must avoid a similar, devastating legacy,” she warns.
Are you sure about that, Angela? After all, if they do avoid it, you’ll be out of a very well-paid job, won’t you?
Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), acknowledges that the signs do not look promising for struggling families.
Newsflash: They don’t look too promising for anyone.
The latest noises from David Cameron suggest that he wants to move the goalposts on how child poverty is measured. A child is considered to be in relative poverty if they are in a household living below 60% of the UK median income, but the prime minister argues that comparing relative incomes leads to perverse incentives and does little to promote better life chances.
“We’re not going to help those children by redefining child poverty or pretending they don’t exist,” Garnham responds…
You’ve already ‘redefined the term poverty’ by accepting the notion of ‘relative poverty’ in the first place, as Bucko points out.
Garnham is resolute in her determination to hold the government to the legally binding targets to end child poverty enshrined in last year’s Child Poverty Act. At her disposal is an arsenal that includes reams of evidence demonstrating the detrimental effects of child poverty on health, education and wellbeing.
I don’t think anyone would deny that it’s detrimental; what we deny is that we should all be taxed to the hilt to try to eradicate it! Frankly, it’s not my concern.
Garnham comes from generations of miners in Durham and was the first woman in her family to go to university, so social mobility is a subject close to her heart.
Any attempts by this government to increase social mobility through early intervention for the children of low income families, such as expanding free childcare places to two-year-olds, are doomed to failure without increasing family income, she says. “No one is going to find me saying investing in early years is a bad idea, but it is well understood how income plays into early life chances. I don’t think you can disentangle income from issues such as limited aspirations.”
Hey, if ‘increasing family income’ is the goal, why is it solely up to the government to do so? Should the breadwinner(s) of the family also not take a hand in that?
“I can see that it is a difficult time to press on about incomes, as there is no money, but what we’ve seen is the poorest families taking the biggest hit. The poorest 10% has been hit eight times harder than the richest. It is not defensible. There are broader shoulders that could be taking a fairer share of this and protecting these families. I’m very disappointed [at what] is happening.”
Whose ‘broader shoulders’ did you have in mind, Alison?
Yours look pretty broad, now that I come to think of it…