Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence



  Note:  The answers follow the numbers in the printed response form.


  My experience of child poverty is both personal (in childhood) and academic. I have been engaged in research since 1964 into poverty concepts, definitions and measures, and into government responses to them in their income maintenance systems, particularly social assistance. I have studied the UK Government's policies on these matters from the 1930s onwards, based on primary sources in departmental files and interviews with senior officials, and have published the only account so far of the unique official study of the adequacy of the benefit rates (1999a). Following the suggestion of the Social Security Advisory Committee in 1991, I have also reported on how the Governments of 10 other countries around the world consider the adequacy of their income maintenance benefits and set governmental minimum income standards (1998). My work emphasises the distinction between political and scientific objectives, methods and measures, a distinction which is not mentioned in the consultation document but which is especially relevant to it.


Two Different Interpretations of the Consultation Question must be Distinguished Before the Issues in the Document can be Addressed, (a) and (b).

  1. (a)  The question, "how should child poverty be measured?" evokes two disparate kinds of answers. One is the answer to the question, "by what measure can you capture all the multifarious qualities of child poverty?" The other is "by what measure can you count how many people are in poverty?" These are completely different questions, but if the Government is to make effective policy it is essential that it can distinguish between the answers.

  2.  The Prime Minister promised to abolish child poverty by 2019. This requires an answer to the second question. The implications of this distinction between what are essentially issues for social science and what are essentially political issues are discussed below. Many people respond to the question in this very welcome consultation by addressing issues around a better understanding of the wide variety of concepts, definitions and approaches to child poverty, and the variety of qualitative and quantitative measures to which each approach gives rise. By contrast, my response focuses chiefly on the second question. I am just as interested in the first question, but I do not believe it is the salient issue in this consultation.

  3.  (b) Many consultants and respondents advise that the Government retains the HBAI measure of the distributive inequality of household incomes as the chief (or significant) measure of child poverty. This confuses the political importance of inequality in the UK (and the demands for greater redistribution to reduce it) with the need to establish what are minimally adequate household income levels at which the many qualities of poverty can be overcome. These are two entirely distinct concepts and measures which should not be confused with each other.

  4.  The Government should continue to collect data on income inequality, but if it does no more than this it risks never being able to abolish child poverty, because it has no means of knowing what level of incomes and other essential resources are needed to overcome it, or of taking steps to ensure that all children have access to them. If the Government aims to achieve its poverty abolition target, income inequality statistics can never be a substitute for the indispensable collection of reliable statistics on the adequacy of incomes and their distribution. This issue is discussed further below.


  5.  There are as many aspects as the definition of child poverty chosen. The Government must decide how broad its definition is to be and measure all aspects of it. The broader the definition, the more aspects have to be measured; the narrower the definition, the fewer. Note that all authorities agree that child poverty cannot be measured independently of the situation of the family or household in which they are living. The poverty of a child can be understood separately from that of its family or household, but for practical measurement purposes (under the present conditions of household resource dynamics and data collection) the poverty of children has to be subsumed under that of its household.


  6.  The usual meaning of poverty is a lack of sufficient resources to "buy" oneself and one's dependants out of a host of deprivations and exclusions and into full social participation. For the Government's counting purposes, it may be enough to measure those resources—chiefly cash flows and other assets which can be converted into cash flows.

  7.  On the other hand, if the Government's preferred definition means the social condition of being poor, including a broad sweep of deprivations and exclusions and not only power over fungible resources such as cash incomes, then they must all be precisely delineated and measured. The Government is concerned about a wide range of social evils described in Opportunity for All and should work to abolish them as well. But they are not all aspects of poverty in any of the usual meanings of the word. Credibility will be lost if the target is so diffuse, and it will be much harder to achieve.

  8.  In either case it is essential to have empirically well-founded measures of how much is needed, whether of resources to achieve a satisfactory condition, or of the qualities of that condition. For example, if the Government believes that parents without employment, low levels of children's school attainment or health inequalities should be included as conditions of child poverty, then in order to set its targets and measure achievement it must be able to answer such questions as, how little worklessness is enough, what educational attainment is not poverty, what health inequalities are tolerable and to whom?

  9.  Similarly, the document states that "Low income is a key aspect of child poverty" (para 14), and the Government minister and officials at the consultation workshop in London on 20 June reiterated that low income is the single most important aspect of poverty and is seen as a key issue. This view was supported and reinforced by Professor John Hills and others there. However, it must be noted that `low income' as such need not be a deprivation or the cause of deprivations, provided that at its lowest it is still enough for what society defines as adequacy for decent performance and participation. Income is the indispensable mediating resource for avoiding the bad conditions of deprivations and social evils and getting out of poverty, but a measurement of income level tells us nothing if we do not know if it is adequate for social inclusion and thus its purpose of measuring poverty (at income levels below it).

  10.  The document states that "Action to tackle child poverty must therefore raise the incomes of the poorest families" (para 18), but to what level? Only social science, not politics, can answer this question. In every field the UK Government sets quantified measurable targets, except for income. Since low income is ineradicable (there must always be some level of income which is lower than some other), measuring income distribution cannot be a measure of poverty. The Government must therefore discover what level of low income is sufficient to abolish child poverty.


  11.  Which aspects of poverty should be measured also depends on whether one has political or scientific objectives. A social science approach would suggest that research must discover empirically how UK society defines and experiences poverty and the associated forms of deprivation and social exclusion. It would also study such questions as human rights and other relevant value systems which might shed another light on UK society's approach to poverty, as well as reviewing expert evidence on physiological and psychological needs and the resources and environments which supply them adequately within the parameters set by UK social convention and current scientific knowledge of human development in time and place. Examination of this collected qualitative and quantitative data would allow the development of indicators and measures relevant to the forms of child poverty which international values and UK society recognise.

  12.  In the UK these would include measures of the quality of family life and of its social, psychological and physical security, of housing and its environment, of socialisation and education from birth, of the conditions of life and work of parents or carers. The measures would include not only the "output" measures of achievement of the variety of norms of conventional experience and performance which society sets, but also of power over the resources available to the families, both collective and individual, tangible and intangible, which allow those norms to be achieved. Among the most important individual and tangible resources in a marketised economy such as that of the UK is income—the family's or household's discretionary purchasing power. Other measures (such as expenditure) may capture what the family has achieved, but only the purchasing power at its disposal measures what it can do, and what choices it has the power to make, in those aspects of life where money is relevant.

  13.  A satisfactory scientific measure of poverty is one where empirical research would be able to show how far the deprivations and social evils it embraces are being experienced, and by whom and where. From a scientific perspective, poverty is not abolished until the evidence shows that no one is poor by this empirically derived social definition, irrespective of the political or financial implications. Similarly, the resources found by such intensive research methods to be needed to abolish this poverty are matters entirely for scientific determination, even if government is unwilling or unable to supply them. Previous governments' claims that implementing policies to deal with scientific findings about poverty levels was "too expensive" is not an objection to their integrity but is a confusion between scientific and political objectives.

  14. The political objective is quite different. What that objective is may vary, but its specific form relates very directly to the aims of any specified government. In this case, the New Labour Government has promised to halve child poverty by 2010 and to abolish it by 2019. As Baroness Hollis has recently stated:

    "We need . . . to arrive at a measurement of poverty that is transparent, robust and holds government to account, and, in turn, gives government proper policy levers in order to take action." (House of Lords, 3 July 2002, col 218)

  15.  The answer to the first consultation question is, then, that if the Government's objective as stated here is to be met, it must capture each aspect of poverty at issue in a discrete measure (transparent and robust, and meeting the document's requirement that "if policies are working, there should be an improvement in the indicator"). These measures, and the standards on which they are based, must be drawn from the scientific research and not from political prescription, since the latter lacks public credibility based on human experience.

  16.  In addition, the choice of measures and indicators needs to be based on an analytical understanding of the chain of necessary resources and intermediate goals towards the final objective. Which of these are inputs and which are outputs? That can be answered only by analysis of the whole chain—no single factor is an input or output, a resource or a condition alone.


  17.  Because of the confusion between scientific and political objectives, the document discusses indicators as if this were a scientific matter, when what in fact became clear in the consultation workshop on 20 June was that the Government objective is the search for a political measure, amenable to policy (as Baroness Hollis reiterated, quoted above) which can literally be headlined in the media.

  18.  The consultation document quotes Professor Sir Tony Atkinson's report to the EU on social indicators. The nine principles and four recommendations in his chapter 2 were written to offer diagnostic tools for EU comparative and indicative purposes. This is not the same objective as the DWP desire for measures which will show if the UK Government has managed to reduce or abolish what it defines as child poverty. Naturally, the UK Government should measure everything needed to generate internationally comparable data, with long term series, disaggregable and so on, including income inequalities. This is a both/and question, not an either/or. The real issue here is what are good indicators of child poverty which are both publicly credible and unambiguous as well as scientifically robust, for use in the UK over two decades?

  19.  The document also considers that a good indicator will reflect child outcomes rather than processes, giving as an example children in workless households rather than DWP policy achievements in employment placements. But to be workless is not necessarily to be poor, and lacking work is not synonymous with poverty. Examination of the range of households shows that there are rich households in which no adult is in employment, but the children are not in poverty as a result. The real issue is of course not the employment status of parents if they have adequate incomes from assets, but that in the absence of assets unemployment is likely to cause loss of adequate income. Similarly, there are many households in which adults have employment but do not earn adequate incomes. How are they to be measured? The idea that employment (not work, which everyone does, unpaid if not paid) is the salient poverty issue when in fact it is adequate income, is a conceptual confusion (unemployment is of course both a social and a political issue for other reasons). The outcomes for children certainly should be measured, but the policy implications of deprivations and shortfalls are that the inputs are insufficient to achieve the Government's output goals—and that means, among other things, measuring the adequacy of incomes, in employment as well as out of it.

  20.  To say that a good indicator "should be readily summarised" does not require that a multi-faceted set of indicators should be collapsible into a single score or headline. As Sir Tony Atkinson and his colleagues wisely remark, "We have also to be aware of the temptation to aggregate indicators. Journalists writing about trends will tend to count pluses and minuses" (2002 p 25). Conversely, a measure or indicator which—perhaps because of its technical intricacy and robustness—manages to persuade the media and public figures that it reflects child poverty might therefore meet the political objective, but might be totally unsatisfactory for the scientific purposes of monitoring whether government policy achieves its objectives.

  21.  A current example in the income field is the use of statistical measures of income inequality as substitutes for measures of income adequacy. There is no evidence that 60% of equivalised median household incomes is enough, too much or too little for families to buy themselves out of poverty. There is some dated evidence that it is too little. Research could be carried out to find the current point on the income distribution scale at which (equivalised) households do, on average, manage to avoid the deprivations and social evils. Other research could discover, using budget methods, what level of living was affordable at 60% of median incomes, to see if that level of living avoided or reinforced the deprivations and social evils. But such research has not yet been done.

  22.  Like low income or worklessness, some of the other indicators the Government mentions, such as education, are not in themselves indicators of poverty. What the Government implicitly means is that, for instance, better educational qualifications may lead to—but do not guarantee—higher paid jobs in the labour market. Once again the subject is money as the means in the chain of resources to meet ends, which themselves become resources for a further objective (a better condition of life), not about education as such.


  23.  Measures and their indicators must be (the document states) "credible with the public". It does not state which salient public this is, but it clearly must include the media and politicians. It is not clear how far either of these articulate but often uninformed groups of the public outweigh the opinions of the often inarticulate but well-informed sections of the public who experience deprivations, exclusions and social evils at first hand.

  24.  Professor Hills is quoted as demanding four kinds of credibility for indicators—political, policy, public and technical—and Fran Bennett (at the consultation workshop, London, 20 June 2001) added credibility with people in poverty. This set is similar to the US National Academy of Sciences' recommendation that the US Governmental minimum income standard (MIS) should be publicly acceptable, statistically defensible and operationally feasible (Citro and Michael 1995). The US measure is quoted in the document as "the official poverty line", but this is a misnomer since it does not measure poverty empirically but instead prescribes a MIS, a political measure of income alleged to be sufficient for a prescribed minimum level of living.

  25.  The credibility of measures and indicators with two much larger sections of the public, apart from politicians and the media, is indispensable. One is the views of the public as a whole about what deprived conditions or lack of resources would not be acceptable to them if they had to experience them. The other is the views of the large minority of the public who actually experience the bad conditions and lack of resources. Only they know from experience what the salient conditions or key resource lacks are. A credible long term measure or indicator of child poverty must satisfy both of these publics. In both cases the crucial issue is not what anyone thinks is poverty for someone else, but what it actually is, or would be, for oneself.

  26.  My view of the criteria for indicators on page 19 is that the technical ones are acceptable, but the policy and achievement indicators need far more careful thought about the objectives to be achieved, and by which policies, than they seem to have had.


  27.  There are many very sophisticated technical fixes which may satisfy the technical methodological experts and some of the technical criteria but, because of the widespread confusion between scientific and political objectives, may be politically useless. Even the current usage of income inequality statistics always evokes from journalists the question, "yes, but what does `an equivalised household income at 60% of the median' actually mean in pounds per week?" This is the hard and unavoidable question which the Government has got to be able to answer as long as it wants to use this kind of inequality low income statistic as a proxy headline indicator for poverty.

  28.  The question is, how can the UK Government achieve public acceptability and credibility for any headline indicator of child poverty which is not based on a measure of adequate family income? The mass of sophisticated data the document refers to will not have credibility with the public if they do not include what the public sees as the key indicator. The British Social Attitudes 18th Report (Sage, 2001) shows that this is a money measure and not a host of multi-dimensional statistics (see Professor Hills's chapter 1 on "Poverty and Social Security: What rights? Whose responsibilities?"). And how can these criteria of good indicators be achieved to ensure the technical requirement that the indicator measures what it purports to measure, if the only income measure on offer is unequal income?

  29.  Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, has himself made it clear that he believes that the real issue is not income inequality alone but whether the lowest incomes are enough to enable people to get out of poverty. Repeatedly asked by Jeremy Paxman "is it acceptable for the gap between the rich and poor to get bigger?" (BBC Newsnight, 4 June 2001), Tony Blair repeatedly replied:

  It is acceptable for those people on lower incomes to have their incomes raised. It is unacceptable that they are not given the chances . . . What I am saying is the issue isn't in fact whether the very richest person ends up becoming richer. The issue is whether the poorest person is given the chance that they don't otherwise have. Reducing inequality is an important objective in the fight against poverty, but by concentrating on measuring only income inequality, the DWP is failing to act upon the Prime Minister's assertion that incomes adequate "to give people chances" also have to be targeted. Clearly this cannot be at a level inadequate for a decent life. [Postscript September 2003: the Chancellor of the Exchequer told an IPPR conference that "equality of opportunity is not enough, fairness of outcome matters just as much". (Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 10.9.03, p 22). An outcome leaving people in poverty cannot be considered to be fair.]

  30.  It really does not matter what I or any of the many technical and methodological experts think would make a good headline measure, as long as the UK public, and all the journalists who feed them, think of the summary of poverty as being too little money to live on decently. And as long as they all do, the Government cannot meet its target without a household disposable income measure which (a) tells us what science shows is enough to live on in the UK to avoid all the deprivations and social evils the public as well as the Government are concerned about, and (b) what proportion of the population are actually (not just statistically modelled) living below that level. That and that alone is the summary measure, the headline, which will be credible to the publics the Government cares about.

  31.  While the Government is right to be concerned about many dimensions of poverty, deprivation and exclusion, and it should measure them all, separately, so that it can analyse and target policy effectively, if it wants a single headline summary of child poverty, there is—in the public view—no substitute for a measure of adequate family income.


Option One

  32. The challenge of the criteria for an effective indicator would be met by the use of the governmental minimum income standard (MIS) as the headline measure, as in USA, showing (if it can be done) that the Government had ensured that all families with children had permanent incomes from earnings and child benefits (including tax credits), or temporarily from augmented social security at a lower level, which were consistent with its MIS.

  33.  The many other dimensions of poverty are each separate experience's for the poor, and as such cannot be offset against each other. Experts such as John Micklewright and Professor Hills (in their papers to the DSS/CASE 19 July 2000 discussion of indicators, CASE Report 13) advise that clear and separate indicators should be used in the first place, and I agree with this opinion.

  34.  Each issue about which the Government is concerned and which it sees as an aspect of child poverty should be clearly identified, and measured and reported on separately. That might be more than the five issues mentioned in the document, and it might be other issues. Further, the low income measure should not be an arbitrary percentile on a statistical income distribution but an empirically-derived measure of adequate income. Any judgements about aggregating the findings of empirical evidence should be made only by an independent commission of experts, for example triangulating data to set a governmental minimum income standard, not by politicians or officials.

Option Two

  35.   The compositing of statistical scores from disparate dimensions of poverty would create endless controversy among experts and be publicly incomprehensible, because it leads to and reflects confusion between scientific and political objectives.

  36.  Whatever may be useful as a development index in UN comparison circles, this has nothing to do in political terms with satisfying the UK media or public that poverty is being or has been abolished, if people still feel that their incomes are insufficient and the Government cannot show that each of the income-related deprivations or social evils has been abolished.

Option Three

  37.  Option three is another confusion between technical fix and social realities—and a diversion from the political objective. Having a relatively unequal income and suffering from socially-defined deprivations are doubtlessly bad and worth reporting, but the Government will not be believed if it tries to convince the public that people are not poor because they do not have both characteristics in this measure even while they still suffer many deprivations.

  38.  The Irish Government's Final Report of the Social Welfare Benchmarking and Indexation Group (Dublin 2001) examined this (Irish) proposal at length to evaluate its usefulness. It reported the criticisms that the validity of the measure was highly dependent on the topicality of the deprivation indicators included (the Irish indicators had been unchanged for 14 years); that it identified "a specific group of people with a particular experience of poverty, (but) does not identify all those who are poor; (and) it simply distinguishes between the very poor and the poor, a distinction that tends to lead in practice to a situation where the poor receive far less priority than is required if their situation is to be tackled" (p70). Such criticism needs to be taken seriously.

  39.  The UK Government did not promise to abolish a poverty based on such an incomplete and misleading artificial construct, but to abolish child poverty as measured across a range of aspects. This option does not begin to address that problem and it will have no political credibility.

Option Four

  40. Professor Hills is quoted as offering a set of statistical indicators which measure income inequalities over time, together with the Irish measure (above). This option may help the Government to see how far it has come, and will be of interest to historians, but it is questionable if stationary "absolute" statistical measures of income dispersion will help the Government to achieve its goals. No government would dare to claim that it had abolished poverty by a 20-year-old outdated standard rather than by the current standard.

  41.  The credibility question is not whether economists or historians can see government progress using an unchanged real measure, but whether the electorate and the media think that child poverty, the poverty of families with dependent children, has been abolished in 2019 or not, using the standards appropriate to 2019.

  42.  Even the so-called "relative" measure (actually, all conceivable measures are relative) of 60% HBAI remains merely a measure of income inequality, and compositing it together with measures of employment, education, health and housing will not answer the eternal public questions of "is that enough to live on?" and "has everyone got an income up to that level?". The dangers of using inappropriate standards for making political claims about poverty reduction have already been revealed in recent months, and government credibility risks being undermined by a repetition such as this option offers.


  43.  The approach I favour for measuring child poverty to meet political objectives and criteria is a modified form of option 1 (distinct and separate empirically-based measures for each salient deprivation issue), with the income adequacy measure based on the construction and use of governmental minimum income standards (MIS) for the UK, as is done in at least 10 other countries including USA (see Veit-Wilson 1998) as the headline summary indicator.

  44.  The Government needs (but currently lacks) independent advice at arms-length to ensure the public credibility of any child poverty measure it wants to use. It needs experts to evaluate the scientific evidence and set standards to enable well-founded child poverty measurements to be carried out. It also needs them for better and effective policy making. The Social Security Committee recommended last year that the Government should fund a range of research into "the levels of income which are sufficient to keep families with children out of poverty", and set up an "ongoing working party" of experts to help the Government "devise publicly acceptable measures of the levels of income needed to avoid poverty" (HC72, 2001, paras 24 and 25). Such work would be done on the basis of examining the many disparate sources of information about the adequacy of incomes to meet a variety of needs and avoid a range of deprivations and social evils, such as those the Government is concerned to abolish. Since the information collected will not "agree" on any one income level, the method of evaluation to be used should include "triangulating" the various findings, so that a range of conclusions becomes apparent—a tiered set of incomes at which various deprivations and social evils are shown to be avoided.

  45.  The political fear that any such triangulated and synthesised findings about family income adequacy levels might show up the inadequacy of current UK income maintenance systems—not only pensions and Income Support but also minimum wage rates—need no longer be operative, now that the battery of tax credit benefits to be brought into operation will taper so high up the income scale. Governments who feel vulnerable to criticism may better be able to calculate and point out, if they have to, that (for instance) while an earner's full time minimum wage on its own may be below some household adequacy level, taken together with tax credits and other benefits a measure of family income adequacy may be achieved. A major political objection to the recommendations made by the Social Security Committee can thus be removed. It is also worth noting that the US Government's MIS is well above the incomes offered by many Federal and State agencies, but this does not create political problems there of the kind feared here.

  46.  Political and public credibility are indispensable criteria of MIS, and the countries which have them therefore usually make use of some form of empirical evidence on adequacy for a desired level of living, depending on the national political culture. In the UK this culture demands scientific support for such assertions (in some others, widespread political participative consensus may be sufficient, but that does not apply in the UK). The MIS are then used as a basis for evaluating the income maintenance tiers, from minimum wages at the top, via tax thresholds to long-term social security benefits and short term social assistance. The MIS are not universally set at the level of any one of these four tiers—in some countries the minimum wage is the MIS and other benefits are set (usually) below this level, while in others the standard is lower and other parts of the system may be above or below it. Deciding on benefit levels is a different activity.

  47.  What the Government needs in order to set a MIS for families with children for use as a measure of child poverty abolition is therefore the best data and the means to evaluate it. In a vast range of scientific and specialised fields of government interest and activity it has always made use of expert advisers, working parties and advisory committees to evaluate the findings of scientific research, to come to conclusions about it and to advise government on action. The scientific evaluation, judgement and synthesis of conclusions are matters for the experts, while the political implications of the conclusions are matters for government. If even HM Treasury can hand over critical interest rate decisions to the Monetary Policy Committee (an action unthinkable until this government did it), the longstanding idea that the setting of MIS could not be given to a similarly independent committee can no longer carry any weight.

  48.  All UK Governments have argued against using empirical findings about income inadequacy in policy making "because the findings of the various scientific studies do not agree with each other". This oft-repeated ministerial statement is based on a confusion. The factors which may arguably be political issues in setting benefit levels, such as relationships with other parts of the income maintenance system or the Treasury costs, are not relevant to the process of evaluating such empirical findings about poverty and establishing a MIS.

  49.  The often overlooked point is that a standard is simply a yardstick and not a determinant, and a MIS refers to an income level or levels which are believed to give access to a desired level of living which is being taken as the criterion for comparison of other levels of living. This MIS might be set higher than the lowest acceptable incomes because it may, for example, be based on the higher minimum needs of some sections of the population such as families with children, or at long-term rather than short term levels of living.


  50.  The question of regional or other spatial variation in standards for poverty measures is extremely complicated. What does the Government want to know about measurement for policy purposes? There are several distinct questions here. Is it whether the poverty measure should vary from one area to another because of differences in the costs of maintaining the same minimum standard of living? Or is it how many children are poor in one area or another using a common measure? And if a common measure is used, is it a common income level (at which different levels of living can be afforded) or a common outcome level of living (which need varying income levels to achieve them)?

  51.  Since the 1930s, some studies have found at some times that rural life is cheaper than urban, and some that the reverse holds. Other studies have found that the currently poor are more mixed into the currently non-poor population in all areas than differentiated between them (the Plowden paradox augmented by the findings of dynamic poverty research). The debate has often been confused between these different issues.

  52.  The empirical evidence may well be that there is a spatially differentiated range of scientific poverty lines (incomes needed to meet a minimum participation level of living in different places and under varying conditions). However, the policy implications are again a separate matter: it does not follow that a UK Government must adopt each or any of them as spatially differentiated political MIS, nor as differentiated income maintenance benefits. Whether specific income maintenance provisions should vary was faced and considered by previous governments or officials in 1935 (Unemployment Assistance) and 1942 (Beveridge Report), and both finally came out against differentiation. Governments need to distinguish precisely what the income maintenance policy issues are with which they aim to deal, but these are not the focus of this consultation on child poverty measurement.


  53.  Option 1, amended as suggested above, offers the best chance of reflecting the realities of the variety of dimensions of poverty including spatial variation, since each of the outcome measures chosen will be shown separately. Within it, the income resource measure can best be dealt with pragmatically by the recommended expert advisory committee taking each of the sources of empirical evidence which it will be triangulating in order to set a MIS and also examining it in the light of spatial differentiation, and if it varies, how, over what areas and to what extent. It could in theory be possible that this would provide a basis for a spatially variable MIS to maintain a common minimally adequate level of living across the UK (especially if the MIS were to include widely variable housing costs), or a single MIS with local variable additional allowances. The headline poverty abolition target to aim for would be "all children live in households with the same minimally acceptable participatory level of living, and all households with children have the incomes needed to achieve that target of poverty abolition".

  54.  In this way, the Government's objectives can be met—of seeing poverty more broadly than income alone, but of recognising income's key importance in achieving desired outcomes and being accepted as a headline indicator. Further, the total picture available to the Government of child poverty, including income and outcome variation, would be richer and more informative using this version of option 1 than through the use of any of the composited proposals in the other three options, all of which risk obscuring the complex variations either of aspects of life or of area.

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