Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Poverty definition should include housing

A leading think tank has called on the government to adopt a much broader definition of poverty that includes factors such as housing.

Demos is today launching a new model for assessing poverty based on an 18-month research project, Poverty in perspective. This was supported by the Esmeé Fairbairn Foundation and Natcen Social Research and analysed data from a survey of 40,000 households.

The model consists of 20 indicators including heating, neighbourhood deprivation, neighbourhood support, household composition, tenure, and overcrowding.

The researchers applied this model to low-income households to gain a better understanding of the factors driving child poverty, resulting in five social groups. These ranged from homeowners who have been made redundant or are in low-paid jobs, to young single mothers who are unemployed and struggling to manage bills.

The report says these different groups ‘illustrate that unique combinations of problems are faced by different types of families across Britain’.

‘A greater understanding of this can help policy-makers better integrate relevant services, such as social housing, adult education and social care to develop bespoke combinations to address the difficulties faced by each group,’ it states.

Claudia Wood, deputy director of Demos and co-author of the report, said: ‘The first step in tackling poverty is understanding it properly. Gone are the days when we could talk about families in poverty as a homogeneous group that can be helped with a one size fits all solution.’

‘This research is a real breakthrough that lays out a clear template to help local authorities understand poverty at a household level and get to grips with the unique combination of problems that families are facing every day in their area.’

The government recently launched a consultation on measuring child poverty, which looks to expand beyond the previous income-related criteria.

Earlier this week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published its 15th annual Monitoring poverty and social exclusion report. In a blog to accompany the publication one of the authors, Hannah Aldridge, argues housing issues are becoming central to work to combat poverty, particularly as more households move into the private rented sector.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Rick Campbell

    Poverty -- a simpler definition would be :

    A person/family who through no fault of their own, requires state financial assistance in order to ensure adequate housing and provision of items ancillary to their health, well-being and reasonable existence.

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  • Housing is part of basic necessities and should be a factor in poverty - whether caused by circumstances beyond ones control or not.

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  • Chris

    More importantly - the factors that are agreed as poverty measures should not be permited to be traded as commodities, but respected as the essentials to life. As such, housing, utilities, education, healthcare, and food must be able to be afforded on the income from the employment for the majority (i.e. those on a minimum or minimal wage). The use of the benefit system to fund mass profit making from the essentials of life is not only perpetuating poverty but is an inefficient use of resources that could otherwise be put to the betterment of mankind instead of the betterment of a few men.

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  • Rick Campbell

    I, of course, proffer my opinion as one who has great experience of poverty, as my past contributions to these threads might indicate.

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  • This sort of thing is very unhelpful.

    Poverty is lack of money - that is what it means.

    You can raise wider issues under the heading of "deprivation" so long as you are careful with your definitions.

    I'm afraid there are a lot of pressure groups and vested interests deliberately confusing the issue. This leads to our government ignoring all problems raised with welfare reforms as being simply short-sighted and ideological, when some of them are practical and reflecting the way that people actually live.

    If you want to raise a serious practical problem then DO NOT confuse and challenge the agenda, but work within its terms. Then the government will listen.

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  • Rick Campbell

    Nearly fell out of my sick bed laughing at the naivety of " Then the government will listen. "

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    Rick, Chris and VS write clearly from a base of experience, understanding, and, vision.

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  • This is only going to get worse as the bedroom tax comes in in April. I've lived in my home for 28 years but I could end up being forced out through this tax. I am disabled and could not live in a flat and there is a long waiting list, why should people be forced out of there homes especially when in one of the most deprived areas in the country.

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  • Rick Campbell

    "Poverty is a state of mind" according to


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  • Rick Campbell

    AND there's more about all sorts of poverty here:


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