Headlines: December 13th, 2004

The government is being urged to use new indicators that reveal concentrations of child poverty, poor housing, school underachievement and crime in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, to step up the campaign against deprivation and social exclusion over the next 20 years.A report published today to mark the 100th anniversary of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the new measurements should inform a comprehensive strategy for helping the poorest places and the poorest people and to ensure that people’s life chances no longer depend so heavily on the places where they are born and live.

The report – “Strategies Against Poverty” – will be launched at the Foundation’s centenary conference in York. It welcomes government commitments to reducing poverty and points to a growing consensus across the political spectrum that action to tackle disadvantage is in the interests of society as a whole. It says only a modest share of economic growth over the next 20 years would be redistributed to raise the ten million poorest people in Britain above the poverty threshold.

It highlights new figures that it says expose the intense concentrations of disadvantage within neighbourhoods in some major cities. An analysis of family poverty prepared for the conference shows that one in five children in England, Scotland and Wales are living in families receiving means-tested benefits where parents or carers are not working and that in the hundred local authority wards with the worst concentrations of poverty, almost six out of ten children live in families relying on Income Support and other means-tested benefits.

It shows that in 180 wards, more than half the children are in families receiving out-of-work, means-tested benefits and that Glasgow has 28 such wards, more than any other local authority area, followed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Liverpool, Manchester and the London Borough of Hackney.

The report calls for the new figures to be used with existing measures of poverty to track whether the number of neighbourhoods with concentrated child poverty is being reduced and whether concentrations in the worst affected areas are becoming less intense. It says other data that will soon be available at neighbourhood level should make it possible to produce useful indicators of progress on the geographical concentration of other aspects of deprivation.

Donald Hirsch, Special Adviser to the foundation and author of the report, said policy makers from across the political spectrum recognised the importance of tackling the disadvantage of ‘poverty’ and ‘place’ and this reflected increasing awareness that without action to deal with the consequences of deprivation there is little hope of solving related problems such as drug cultures, crime and family breakdown.