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New statistics will aid our understanding on supporting those on low incomes

New statistics will aid our understanding on supporting those on low incomes
3 min read

Just 43 days as a new Minster at DWP, Will Quince MP announces the development of new statistics to measure poverty.

The British social reformer Charles Booth was born in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign; yet his new approach to collecting data is still considered of relevance today.

He is well known for critiquing the existing data on poverty in the late 1800s and popularising the concept of the poverty line. But he’s perhaps most remembered for his extensive research into the lives of Londoners on low incomes, using statistics and qualitative methods which were groundbreaking at the time.

Tackling poverty is a priority for this Government and me personally, and I share the obvious commitment Booth had to understanding the complexities of disadvantage so we can develop policy to help people improve their lives.

That ambition is one of the main reasons I came into politics. When I was on the back benches, I co-chaired the All Parliamentary Group for ending homelessness and campaigned for radical solutions to end rough sleeping and address homelessness focusing on support for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. 

So I am particularly proud that one of the first steps I am taking – just 43 days as a new Minster at DWP – is to announce that we are developing new statistics to measure poverty. These will draw on the methodology used in the Social Metrics Commission’s (SMC) A New Measure of Poverty.

The SMC’s valuable work developing a new measure looks at a family’s total available resources – including income and savings – after any inescapable costs, such as childcare or disability. It also considers the persistence and depth of poverty and the characteristics and factors that impact on a family’s experience of poverty, for example having a disabled family member or qualifications.

The new data will be published as experimental statistics in the second half of 2020, following consultation with experts including the SMC. They will be published after the official Households Below Average Income Statistics are released, which will continue to be the main measure of poverty in the UK.

This isn’t the only new data we are gathering. Since April 2019 we have also included new food security questions to the Family Resources Survey which will also help develop evidence to better target support to those who need it most.

Overall we should celebrate the UK’s strong economy. 

Earlier this week, the latest statistics showed we have joint-record employment.

Meanwhile wages are outstripping inflation, while income inequality and absolute poverty are lower than in 2010. Yet we know some families need more support – and my Department is determined to deliver that.

We continue to spend £95 billion a year on working-age benefits, but by improving the evidence we gather, I know we can do even more to help the most vulnerable to improve their lives.

The work by the Social Metrics Commission has cross-party support, and I am grateful for all its work in this area. As Booth’s work shows us, when politicians, researchers and policy makers work together, we can build alliances that can ultimately transform lives.


Will Quince is Conservative MP for Colchester and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance.

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