Poverty is a complex issue with varying root causes

DICK Bellringer maintains that my commitment to fairness cannot be squared with support for the coalition Government's reforms (Postbag, June 5).

His denial of “benefits dependency” just cannot be squared with the mathematical reality: that under the previous tax credit regime, hundreds of thousands of households faced losing between 80 per cent and 100 per cent of their benefits if they took a job, removing any significant economic incentive to work.

The benefits system should indeed be a “springboard to better things”, but sadly this is all too often not the case.

Mr Bellringer is right that I want to reject the unhelpful rhetoric around poverty and want the Government to find practical solutions to food poverty and child poverty.

It is not clear-cut, however, that lack of money is the primary cause of poverty of aspiration, or poverty of positive family relationships and parenting skills.

These forms of poverty are not 'symptoms'

but are tied together in complex ways in different individual situations.

I chaired an evidence session in Salisbury last Friday for the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Food Poverty.

It became clear that poverty had many causes. Benefits delays and poorly enforced sanctions will have a real effect on people’s financial well-being and this was reinforced during the evidence sessions.

But many other factors also mattered: lack of access to good-value utility and mobile packages, lack of cooking skills and access to cooking facilities creating reliance on more expensive food, and the presence of mental health problems and illiteracy which impacted on job searching.

No doubt the Labour administration moved forward on hitting statistical targets through tax credits, but dealing with the relational aspects of poverty will never be solved by government hand-outs alone.

Using the benefits system as a single blunt instrument simply fails to engage with the complexity of poverty and help those who are most in need of committed long-term support so that they will be able to live more independent fulfilling lives.

John Glen, MP Salisbury

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4:41am Sat 14 Jun 14

karlmarx says...

Indeed, the complexity of poverty is not well understood and there have been many debates and reforms which have failed to address the major issues surrounding poverty.
So, lets keep it simple and start with the basic premise of 'making work pay', something which I agree should assist in the fight against poverty. However, look at what is happening to all those people who have been 'lucky' enough to find work...

Friday 09 May 2014
The Independent

"The number of people in work and claiming housing benefit has rocketed by 59 per cent since the Coalition came to power and will cost taxpayers an extra £5 billion by next year’s general election.

The figures, compiled by the House of Commons Library, highlight the growth of “in-work poverty” in recent years while wages fell in real terms and rents continued to rise. They also undermine claims by some Conservatives that benefit claimants are “skivers” because many people qualify for state help even though they are in jobs.

The number of housing benefit claimants in work rose from 650,561 in May 2010 to 1.03 million by the end of last year. The Commons Library estimates the cost of the extra claims at £4.8 billion by May 2015. In England, the number of in-work claimants has increased from 586,181 to 936,964 since 2010. In Scotland, the number jumped from 40,447 to 61,856 over the same period and in Wales from 23,923 to 38,003.
The Library calculated the amount spent on in-work housing benefit will rise from £3.4 billion in the 2010-11 financial year to £5.1 billion in 2014-15, making a total of £21.9 billion over the five-year parliament ending at next year’s election.

Quite clearly the evidence suggests that 'making work pay' is not actually happening, the wages are far too low for people to be able to pay their way in society. Are these people 'skivers'? or are they not working hard enough for long enough?

Well, again the evidence suggests that this is also not the case...

30th April 2014

ONS: UK firms use 1.4m zero-hour contracts
Nearly half of big companies in the UK use a total of 1.4 million zero-hours contracts, a study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says.

Zero-hours contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment.

The ONS recently estimated that 583,000 people, around 2% of the UK workforce, were employed on zero-hours contracts between October and December 2013.


So, no guaranteed income for 1.4 million people, not really 'making work pay' is it?

But there is even more evidence...

How many people in the UK do minimum wage jobs?

The Low Pay Commission estimates that there are 1,386,000 minimum wage jobs.

Nearly half (46%) of all low-wage workers are employed in two sectors: wholesale and retail, and hotels and restaurants. About three-quarters of a million minimum-wage jobs are accounted for by hospitality, retail and cleaning.

So on top of the 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts we have almost another 1.4 million people earning minimum wage.

So while I agree that working your way out of poverty is a noble cause it just isn't happening despite the best intentions of the 2.8 million people who are trying. No 'skivers' there at all, just ordinary people trying their best to keep their heads above the water.
Indeed, the complexity of poverty is not well understood and there have been many debates and reforms which have failed to address the major issues surrounding poverty. So, lets keep it simple and start with the basic premise of 'making work pay', something which I agree should assist in the fight against poverty. However, look at what is happening to all those people who have been 'lucky' enough to find work... Friday 09 May 2014 The Independent "The number of people in work and claiming housing benefit has rocketed by 59 per cent since the Coalition came to power and will cost taxpayers an extra £5 billion by next year’s general election. The figures, compiled by the House of Commons Library, highlight the growth of “in-work poverty” in recent years while wages fell in real terms and rents continued to rise. They also undermine claims by some Conservatives that benefit claimants are “skivers” because many people qualify for state help even though they are in jobs. The number of housing benefit claimants in work rose from 650,561 in May 2010 to 1.03 million by the end of last year. The Commons Library estimates the cost of the extra claims at £4.8 billion by May 2015. In England, the number of in-work claimants has increased from 586,181 to 936,964 since 2010. In Scotland, the number jumped from 40,447 to 61,856 over the same period and in Wales from 23,923 to 38,003. The Library calculated the amount spent on in-work housing benefit will rise from £3.4 billion in the 2010-11 financial year to £5.1 billion in 2014-15, making a total of £21.9 billion over the five-year parliament ending at next year’s election. Quite clearly the evidence suggests that 'making work pay' is not actually happening, the wages are far too low for people to be able to pay their way in society. Are these people 'skivers'? or are they not working hard enough for long enough? Well, again the evidence suggests that this is also not the case... 30th April 2014 ONS: UK firms use 1.4m zero-hour contracts Nearly half of big companies in the UK use a total of 1.4 million zero-hours contracts, a study from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says. Zero-hours contracts do not guarantee a minimum number of hours of employment. The ONS recently estimated that 583,000 people, around 2% of the UK workforce, were employed on zero-hours contracts between October and December 2013. So, no guaranteed income for 1.4 million people, not really 'making work pay' is it? But there is even more evidence... How many people in the UK do minimum wage jobs? The Low Pay Commission estimates that there are 1,386,000 minimum wage jobs. Nearly half (46%) of all low-wage workers are employed in two sectors: wholesale and retail, and hotels and restaurants. About three-quarters of a million minimum-wage jobs are accounted for by hospitality, retail and cleaning. So on top of the 1.4 million people on zero hours contracts we have almost another 1.4 million people earning minimum wage. So while I agree that working your way out of poverty is a noble cause it just isn't happening despite the best intentions of the 2.8 million people who are trying. No 'skivers' there at all, just ordinary people trying their best to keep their heads above the water. karlmarx
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