Headlines: September 14th, 2004

A new report says traditional views of a North-South divide and a similar
urban-rural split often mask the real picture of where deprivation actually
exists in Britain. The annual ‘Opportunity For All’ report for the first time
includes a particular focus on area-based disadvantage.

The report shows the Government is making significant progress towards
eradicating child poverty, achieving full employment, providing security for
those unable to work, providing security and independence in retirement and
delivering high quality public services. Of its 58 poverty indicators, two –
tackling childhood obesity and families living in temporary accommodation – are
new. They have been included in the light of the commitment to tackle new areas
of concern. The report shows significant improvements on last year.

Launching the document, the Work and Pensions Secretary Alan Johnson said
variations in deprivation within regions were often much more pronounced than
those between regions. “Our improved data means that we can tackle poverty in
smaller geographical areas, even on a street by street basis, and ensure that we
target help to the areas which need it most,” he added.

Significant achievements reported in ‘Opportunity For All’ include large falls
in the proportion of all people below ‘absolute’ low-income thresholds, 600,000
fewer children in relative income poverty since 1997, 2.1 million fewer children
in absolute poverty over the same period, improving attainment levels at 16 and
the highest employment rate of the major industrialised countries.

In a separate development the Minister for Social Exclusion, Jeff Rooker,
launched a report entitled ‘Breaking The Cycle’ on a new cross-government
programme, led by the Social Exclusion Unit, to open up opportunities to
vulnerable people. The research backs the findings of ‘Opportunity For All’. It
shows significant progress in tackling the causes of social exclusion, with 1.8
million people brought into work since 1997. It also highlights the reversal of
deep-rooted social problems, with a 70 per cent reduction in rough sleeping.