Lesley Brennan

The Tories and The Poor


19 October 2015

David Cameron declared his own “all-out assault on poverty” at the Tory conference this week.

No one outside the Tory Party will be convinced by his proclamation, based on the record of his Tory Government, and almost as if on cue, the Resolution Foundation has just published new research showing that by next year another 200,000 children will be pushed into poverty by the Tories’ policies.

The research provides an even bleaker vision of the future :

“In 2020 we estimate that at least an extra 300,000 children will be in this position, rising to 600,000 once all policy measures have taken. Two-thirds of this increase is among children in working households.”

The Tory Works and Pension Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has also been active on poverty – by attempting to re-define it and by scrapping targets to take children out of poverty previously set by Labour.

For Mr Duncan Smith, child poverty is now to be monitored by the length of time that children have been brought up by their birth parents.

At present, if children live in a household with an income below 60 per cent of the median UK household income, then they are living in poverty.

Mr Duncan Smith now seeks to distract attention from easily understood statistics on income as a measure of poverty by producing regular Ministerial reports on the percentage of children living in workless households and the educational levels of attainment reached by 16-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Tory tinkering of this nature seeks to conceal in the public mind the direct link between government policy and levels of poverty in society.

The Tory “assault on poverty" begins with a re-definition of what it means to be poor – something well beyond the experience of Tory Government Ministers.

Instead, for a start, the Tories should re-balance the gross inequality of distribution of wealth in Scotland .

Oxfam Scotland has just revealed that the four richest families in Scotland are wealthier than the poorest 20 per cent of Scots, and that fourteen richest families in Scotland are wealthier than the most deprived one-third.