Children whose parents are divorced could be classed as growing up in poverty under government plans to redefine disadvantage.
Mr Duncan Smith is understood to be determined to focus on preventing marital breakdown and helping more families to stay together Photo: GEOFF PUGH
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will start a formal consultation on expanding the definition of child poverty beyond the current focus on families with low incomes.
Officials could take into account family breakdowns, parents’ academic qualifications and their ability to help with homework, unemployment, and whether children attend failing schools.
Mr Duncan Smith is understood to be determined to focus on preventing marital breakdown and helping more families to stay together.
The Government has started tracking family stability and its latest figures showed 80 per cent of children were living with both parents when they were born but this fell to 55 per cent by the age of 15.
The current definition of child poverty refers to growing up in a household with less than 60 per cent of the average income.
Earlier this year, the child poverty rate fell by two per cent simply because average incomes declined, not because families were enjoying higher living standards. Mr Duncan Smith will say that for the 300,000 children no longer judged to be in poverty, “life is no different”. In a speech at a children’s centre in south-east London, he will warn that the current measures of poverty are inadequate.
“There are many factors that impact on a child’s well-being and ability to succeed in life,” he will say.
“Measuring income alone does little to represent the experience of those in poverty.”
A “fixation” with moving families over “an arbitrary line” of income does little to help the lives of the most disadvantaged children, he will say.
The consultation will examine which other factors should be included in child poverty figures in future measurements.
Anne Marie Carrie, Barnardo’s chief executive, warned that measuring income would still be essential. “Children growing up in low income households are more likely to suffer from chronic illness, do less well in education and struggle to find work on leaving school,” she said.
ÞThousands of employers will miss the deadline for the start of Mr Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit welfare reform system, tax officials have admitted.
HM Revenue and Customs has said that 8,000 small employers will be unable to take part in a real-time wage reporting system that will underpin the new welfare scheme next year. It is the first time officials have admitted that changes are required in the timetable for implementing Universal Credit.
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