Headlines: February 4th, 2004

There are growing indications of a political consensus on the importance of tackling poverty and social disadvantage according to a new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The Foundation says the report, commissioned from five leading think tanks, takes the signs of agreement on the need for action to prevent widening inequality a step further.”Overcoming Disadvantage” has been published to mark the start of the foundation’s centenary year, and supports the idea of a 20-year programme to defeat poverty by identifying a range of innovative approaches for policy makers, in and out of government.

The report’s authors – from the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Social Market Foundation, Policy Exchange, the Scottish Council Foundation and the Institute of Welsh Affairs – differ on the kinds of policies that will be needed. For example, income redistribution, the balance between universal and means-tested benefits and the merits of targeting disadvantaged communities, rather than low-income families are disputed areas.

But, in an introduction to the document, Nicholas Timmins, Public Policy Editor of the “Financial Times” argues that the chances of some consensus about the aims of tackling disadvantage, if not the means, seem to be higher than for many years.

Lord Best, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said it had published its own working paper last year arguing that a 20-year mission to reduce poverty was affordable provided the political will existed to see it through. The Foundation was now pleased to be moving forward the debate on tackling poverty with the report. “We believe it paves the way for a political consensus about the value of tackling poverty that would have been unthinkable a decade ago,” he added.

“Overcoming disadvantage: An agenda for the next 20 years” is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZQ. It can be downloaded from www.jrf.org.uk  file://www.jrf.org.uk.