Minister to change definition of poor

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The Government was accused of “running away” from the problem of child poverty after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith confirmed he plans to change the way it is measured.

Mr Duncan Smith said new measures would take into account worklessness, debt and family breakdown, rather than relying on a household’s relative income.

His announcement came as new figures showed the previous Labour administration missed by 600,000 its goal of halving the number of children living in poverty in the UK by 2010.

The child poverty figure fell by 2 per cent to 18 per cent in 2010/11, equating to 2.3 million children – but the reduction was not enough to hit the 1.7 million target set a decade ago.

Mr Duncan Smith said the Government remained committed eliminating child poverty by 2020, enshrined in the Child Poverty Act of 2010. A consultation beginning this autumn will seek a new way of measuring child poverty, rather than relying on an “arbitrary threshold” of 60 per cent of the median average household income.

Mr Duncan said families can be lifted above the poverty line without any change in their own circumstances if other people’s incomes fall.

“Getting a family into work, supporting strong relationships, getting parents off drugs and out of debt, all this can do more for a child’s wellbeing than any amount of money in out-of-work benefits,” he said.

But the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said that relative income poverty remained “the single best indicator” and branded any attempt to move the goalposts as “shameful”.