State of the Nation Report: No progress since 1961?
The State of the Nation Report released today makes for depressing reading. Income inequality in the UK is now at its highest level since comparable statistics began in 1961.
According to the report, the gap in income between the middle and the bottom has not improved in the past decade and, on some measures, appears to have increased. A higher proportion of children grow up in workless households in the UK than in almost any other EU country.
People living in the poorest neighbourhoods in England will, on average, die seven years earlier than people living in the richest neighbourhoods. The gap in educational attainment between children from rich and poor backgrounds remains persistently high. Social mobility in Britain is worse than in the USA, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Canada, Finland and Denmark.
“A system that was originally designed to support the poorest in society is now trapping them in the very condition it was supposed to alleviate”, Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith said.
Iain Duncan Smith wants an overhaul of the benefits system and when you look at that list you have to agree. But getting people off benefits and into work isn’t the solution to child poverty unless that work takes you out of income poverty.
A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called Addressing in-work Poverty showed that tax credits are increasingly needed to avoid in-work poverty as, for many familie,s work isn’t the route out of poverty. Work needs to pay better. That means making sure people can keep more of their benefits when they get a job and making sure the minimum wage increases. A lot has been done in the last ten years to bring the numbers of children living in poverty down. There are 600,000 fewer children living in poverty today than was the case in 1999, but clearly more needs to be done.
Living in income poverty means being unable to have the standard of living many take for granted. It also affects children’s’ future chances and opportunities. But income poverty also has an impact on social mobility.
Save the Children has long highlighted that living in income poverty as a child is associated with increased risks of lower school performance and the risk of unemployment in later life. Only 7% of the population attended independent schools but they make up over half of the top earning professions including 75% of judges, 70% of finance directors and 45% of top civil servants.
Save the Children is pushing for change that breaks this cycle of intergenerational poverty — especially when the report points out that the top 10% of households possess 100 times the wealth of the bottom 10%.
The first steps should be that having a job ensures a decent standard of living and that a pupil premium of £3,000 is ringfenced for children in poverty so they achieve better exam results.