Frank Field Says Government Poverty Measures Aren't Going Far Enough

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Frank Field is the government's poverty tsar and a Labour MP
Frank Field is the government's poverty tsar and a Labour MP

The government's approach to tackling poverty is akin to putting out a "bushfire with odd pails of water", according to the coalition's poverty tsar Frank Field.

The Labour MP’s grim assessment came in an interview with a HuffPost UK where he claimed they have "done nothing" to improve the life chances of the young a year on from his report into poverty, where he stressed the importance of good parenting.

"The crucial fact is they’ve got no measurement [to look at life chances and social mobility], it’s like walking around in the dark, with these projects.

"In a sense, I say we lack optimism that they’re going to do anything..

"You’d have thought this would’ve been done by the Government, a year on from the report, wouldn’t you?" he said.

"The Prime Minister asked me to do this, it’s not as though I decided to or forced him to ask him, he actually asked me to do it."

Instead Field is looking at funding indices which measure life chances from the private sector as he is "way past" waiting for the government to act.

His intervention comes as the coalition’s adviser on social mobility, former Labour MP Alan Milburn, predicted that the government would fail to meet their target to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

Iain Duncan Smith recently hit out at the measure used to define child poverty, saying that it was about more than income.
His intervention came as predictions showed child poverty will increase by 100,000 next year, something which IDS’ shadow for Labour, Liam Byrne, said demonstrated the government’s failure on poverty.

“The government is no longer interested in fighting child poverty,” said Byrne. “They are replacing a commitment to fight child poverty with a commitment to fight the definition of child poverty. Hardly as noble a goal.”

Frank Field says the government should be more concerned about showing they had improved the life chances of poor children - and measures like the government's aim to tackle problem families are like "trying to put out a bushfire, I think, with odd pails of water".

None of the seven measures the government will use to identify troubled families include school attendance, something which Field called to be amended “immediately”.

And Field said if the coalition was serious about funding for young people and early interventions, they would ring-fence cash aimed at tackling these issues.

"What’s happened is the government, wrongly, has put the early intervention moneys into an intervention plan that is up to local authorities how they spend it,” he said.

"They announced in the Autumn Statement a good move, that they’ll be doubling the numbers of young children at two getting nursery education. But it’s not ringfenced, how do we know it’s going to be spent on that?"

But a government spokesman said that reforms implemented by the coalition will help improve the life chances of children.

“Universal Credit will make work pay and lift almost a million people, including 350,000 children out of poverty.

"We know that poverty is about more than just income and that's why we have introduced a new fairness premium, worth £7.2 billion to support the poorest children at every stage of their education.

“These measures will ensure that, in the future, no child is disadvantaged simply by the circumstances of its birth. With inequality at the highest ever recorded despite billions of pounds thrown at the problem it is clear that sticking with the status quo is not an option.”

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