Is child poverty about more than money?

In May the Centre for Social Justice published Rethinking Child Poverty, arguing that current measures for child poverty “[fail] to acknowledge that poverty is about much more than a lack of income… To construct a measure of poverty that is both accurate and useful, it is vital that the main drivers of poverty – family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependency and worklessness, addiction and serious personal debt – are made the priority for measurement.”

This weekend, Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu gave his reply.  The Archbishop writes that “instead of redefining Child Poverty, we urgently need to do something about it.”  He believes income inequality is the root of child poverty and recommends we “look at how Beveridge tackled the giants of inequality and use that as a blueprint for a new social covenant.”

You can’t begin to tackle a problem until you define and measure it.  If Beveridge was writing his report today, how would he have defined child poverty?


5 thoughts on “Is child poverty about more than money?

  1. Is it not economically naive of the ABofY to cite the differential between the CEO and lowest worker’s pay? The suggestion that the CEO’s pay is too much is perhaps sustainable, but does this render the worker’s pay automatically insufficient? The home conditions are not causally set by the rarer very highly paid CEO, and equivalent.
    Is it a simple question of cutting the CEO’s pay in order to augment the lowest paid worker’s pay?
    Is it not socially naive for the ABofY to talk of community cohesion being damaged by the differential? For what does the have spend their money on? Designer ‘gear’? Yes, of course. Flash cars/holidays/houses? Yes, of course. Help? – Well there’s one big rub – 50% tax means it is until after lunch each Wednesday they fill their own pockets. So who is spending the money ‘made’ Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning? And who builds the cars? Enables the holidays? Builds and maintains the houses? Keeps the houses clean, educates children (okay, private schools, but they still pay their contribution towards the education their children don’t take from the state, so underwrite state education).
    Yes, Archbishop John, you’ve highlighted the plight of the poor, but can you also acknowledge that the rich also contribute? Eat them, and create more poverty.
    Lastly, who keeps the playing field ‘pitched’? The governing class, including the House of Bishops.

  2. On the specific question of child poverty, I am inclined towards the CSJ’s measurement. Clearly, income inequality is not the only or the overriding factor in child poverty. I don’t think a simple ‘redistribution’ (if that is what the Archbishop is proposing) will solve anything – and could produce more problems for the strength of families, etc.

    On CEO pay… I think the Archisbishop has a valid point here when he says huge pay differentials threaten the cohesion of society.

    Executive pay is a scandal. We learn in the FT today of a “median rise of 10 per cent in FTSE 100 chief executives’ total remuneration last year” (report by Manifest and MM&K). In 2010, the bosses awarded themselves with a 13 per cent rise in their total pay packages.

    It seems a gilded few can earn life-changing amounts of cash – using all manner of complex ‘incentive’ schemes to covertly boost their wealth – without, in return, delivering an accompanying rise in business performance. And at the same time companies close down final salary pension schemes, many workers in public and private jobs see their pay packets frozen, and inflation erodes their wealth. The message is that there is one rule for the big bosses – and another for everyone else.

    A hopeful sign – and certainly overdue – is the growth of shareholder activism. WPP today, Aviva a few months ago…

    As for public school education… Yes, parents should have as much choice over where to send their children. And – in some nominal way – by opting for private, parents are leaving more money in the pot for state schools. But I wonder how much the Charity status for public schools erodes any gain here. Interesting piece in Saturday’s Times (£) by Matthew Parris on this.

  3. How does executive pay threaten social cohesion, when the pay of footballers, for one example, does not? (Turn on the tv for other examples…)
    The media argue that their viewing/listening numbers/readership is tantamount to democracy. But I note that the closure of the News of the World was wrought by a collapse in advertising sales rather than any diminution of purchases, who may or may not have been under the delusion that their payment supported the paper…
    Why is the quasi-democratic aspect that the poor are prepared to pay for their entertainment, and so there is some sort of contract between the ‘star’ and the star’s fans/electorate, acceptable (if false), but when it comes to those who contribute to job security, job prospects, market choices, and so on, why is the pay of senior executives brought into the pulpit and public bar for a great fat kicking?
    Shareholder activism is such a peculiar theatre (my read of the plot in most cases is: Activist – “I want more profit from my investment, so will vote against a chief executive’s pay package, and have more money for ME!” Oh so ethically clear!) But were I a c’leb (on equivalent money now, but with fewer years of rock-climbing to get to “the top”), am I independent of the media who ultimately promote me? And who do the proprietors make their money from? It ain’t the readers…
    But I would agree on one point – the pay of the few must be comprehensible by the many, lest we slip into aristocracy, albeit veiled behind the thinnest gauze of democracy (okay, this has been going on since, er, 1942?), otherwise social comprehension is restricted. It is social comprehension that the political-media complex control, not the money, and in doing so condemn the poor eternally. (The exception to this in the post-WW2 period was the Grammar School system, but that was soon abolished by one side, and for the very same reasons will not be resurrected by the other.)

  4. Charlie – I guess I would reply that professional footballers operate in a highly visible environment – where everyone (and in English football that means billions of people) can see and assess a players performance. Talent can shine through – and people pay to see it. That’s why these boys are loaded.

    Company executives operate in a closed world. Their pay – which as we see spirals ever upwards regardless of company performance – is decided by a rather cosy system of back-scratching or ‘Remuneration Consultants’ who devise new ways to ratchet up the boss’s pay. (I acknowledge that it is not always easy to assess an executive’s full contribution in a short time… it must take at least 18 months for a new broom to get to grips with the situation in his new company, execute change and see it deliver).

    I say ‘pay’ – but in reality remuneration is a complex set of schemes designed for tax efficiency (rather than executive performance). Risible bonus targets – for things like ‘sustainability’ are included, so the boss can tick the box and collect an even bigger sack of gold even as the share price collapses.

    I don’t think shareholder activism is an ethical issue. Shareholders own a company: they have every right to monitor the pay of the hired help – and, in particular, the executive board entrusted to manage their company.

    In short – I am delighted a talented (and PR savvy) unique individual – like a professional footballer – can do his thing, wow the folks and get showered in cash. His unique talents – enjoyed by so many – command a big pay packet. We might joke about the WAGS taste in high heels etc – but good luck to them. We understand why they’re worth is (their husbands, I mean?). But we cannot understand by what means an senior executives pay goes up and up – while the rest of the country is on pay freezes or real wage cuts. Basically it is not fair – something about it feels wrong.

    And as for the threat to social cohesion… reading what some executive’s earn makes me want to start a Bolshevik Revolution.

  5. David,
    Sorry for the slowness in getting back to you on this, but within the time the following admission was made by an entertainer:
    “I’ve made a terrible error of judgement” – Jimmy Carr
    I am particularly interested in the viewpoints put forward by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, viz: It is a moral question v. It is a legal question.
    Back the pay of the CEO’s: Firstly, their pay is known as they head PLCs, and so they do pay full whack tax on their income. Secondly, which is better – someone being rewarded for keeping a business going in difficult times, or that person shedding jobs (the alternative to cutting wages – in as much pay rises less than the rate of inflation mean the same thing). Should we consider their conduct morally, or legally? I’d say the moral thing is for the captain to keep the boat afloat, rather than scuttle it with all hands lost.

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