Tom Clark is right to express concern about the seven flimsy pages issued by the government on 21 December (Poverty made permanent, 5 January). The problem for the coalition is that the Child Poverty Act 2010 requires the government to publish a strategy outlining its plans to work towards specific income targets and demonstrate how it will tackle socioeconomic disadvantage.
The deputy prime minister says poverty plus a pound does not represent fairness and suggests we need to look at people’s experiences of poverty in all its dimensions and not just in narrow statistical terms. So they have conducted an initial survey of the evidence and had discussions with experts about the meaning of “socioeconomic disadvantage”.
This is an attempt to wriggle out of the requirements of the act by redefining “socioeconomic disadvantage” while throwing doubt on the importance of measuring income poverty. No amount of political obfuscation can undo the logic of Micawber’s principle – “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery” – when 25 cuts are reducing the already inadequate incomes of the poorest citizens while the prices paid for essentials are increasing.
Chairman, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust