The terrors of rising child poverty in the UK

The IFS is telling us that child poverty will rise in the coming years. We have no doubt that, given the measurements being used, they are correct. However, we do have a problem with the assumption that all seem to be making - that this is some terror which is a stain upon our society.

The number of children living in poverty will soar to a record 5.2 million over the next five years as government welfare cuts bite deepest on households with young families, a leading UK thinktank has said.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts an increase of more than a million in the number of children living in poverty, more than reversing all the progress made over the past 20 years.

The IFS said freezing benefits, the introduction of universal credit and less generous tax credits would mean a surge in child poverty and that the steepest increases would be in the most deprived parts of the country.

The first thing all need to know is that this is not in fact poverty being talked about but inequality - relative poverty that is. The definition is a child living in a household which, after housing costs, taxes and benefits, has less than 60% of median household income for the country (and adjusted for household size). This is not a measure of poverty, it's a measure of inequality.

It might be that an increase in inequality is one of those crimes which cries out to the very heavens. But the assumption being made by near all is that it is which we do regard as problematic. For the reduction in said inequality was a major part of the promises of the Blair and Brown administrations. That's fine, they got elected, they do get to put into practice their manifesto, that's how democracy works.

Yet here we are near a decade later still assuming that their political goals are those that we all should be following now. That's not something that is obviously true though, is it? Given that other people have been elected on a different manifesto or three.

One government declares a target,. a later one has others, and? 

But there's also the detail of what is being measured. The UK has great regional inequality. Wages are very much higher in London and the SE than they are in other regions. Prices are also rather different - yes, prices other than housing. But we are using that national median, including those higher incomes in certain areas, to create our 60% of and thus poverty line. The point about this being that we will count people in, say, the NE as being in relative poverty simply because both incomes and prices are lower there relative to London. They might even have higher real disposable incomes but they could still be classed as in poverty.

Given this regional nature of much of the UK's inequality using such national measurements doesn't really work in the first place.

We clearly differ from a large portion of the population in not worrying very much about relative poverty in the first place. But we would still insist that unless we start producing these measures of it on a regional, or possibly lower level than that, basis we're not even going to be measuring it properly.  And mismeasurement isn't a good way to start to deal with something, is it?