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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 05:23 GMT
UK poverty levels still 'disappointing'
Child poverty
More than 4m children live below the poverty line
One in three children in the UK is still living in poverty, despite government progress towards tackling social exclusion.

More than four million children live below the poverty line and experts say it is unlikely the government will be able to achieve its target of eradicating child poverty within a generation.

Rising standards, particularly in education and housing have helped tackle inequalities, but poverty remains a major problem according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and New Policy Institute.

Report highlights
One in five adults live in households with less than 60% of average income
Children more likely to live in low-income households
25,000 children gain no grades at GCSE
Government has met target for reducing school exclusion levels by 2002
Half of all lone parents had no paid work in 2001
Number of adults earning less than National Minimum Wage dropped from 1m to around 250,000

Co-author Guy Palmer said it was "disappointing" there had been no improvement in the numbers of people living at low incomes since the early 1980s.

"Any future reduction will have to depend overwhelmingly on direct government policies," he said.

The government's claim to have removed 1.2 million people from poverty in the last parliament is challenged in this analysis of social trends.

Shadow Social Security Secretary David Willets said this showed the disappointing impact of the government anti-poverty schemes, such as the minimum wage and working families' tax credit.

Improvement signs

However the report found there were improvements in nearly half of 50 areas, such as education, housing and unemployment.

For example:

  • Less children are leaving school without basic qualifications

  • The number of adults out of work who would like employment has dropped from 5m in 1993 to 3.5m.

  • Housing conditions have improved and mortgage arrears are down substantially compared with a decade ago.

    However Mr Willets blamed "complicated means-testing" for the slow take-up rates of many benefits.

    He said: "They [the government] need fewer schemes that are better designed to reach those most in need".

    Figures queried

    Current figures show that 4m children - or almost one in three - are living in households where the income is below the officially recognised poverty line.

    Households with less than 60% of the average income is the officially recognised poverty line.

    By spring 2001 approximately two million children were living in households where no adults had a paid job.

    Claims that poverty has been driven down in Labour's first term cannot be verified until official figures are released in July 2002.

    The report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2001, covered a wide remit including income, children, young adults, adults, older people and communities.

    The BBC's Kim Catcheside
    "Ministers are confident"
    See also:

    23 Feb 01 | Health
    Child poverty 'high in the UK'
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