New child poverty measure ‘fatally flawed’, say Churches

Four major British Churches have criticised the Government'sproposals for a new way of measuring child poverty in the UK.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, Church of Scotland,Methodist Church and United Reformed Church have accused theGovernment's consultation on the proposals of being 'confused' and'surprisingly badly evidenced'.

"Child poverty is an unacceptable injustice," said PaulMorrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church."While we applaud the Government's commitment to eradicating childpoverty in the UK, the proposed new measure is fatally flawed. Itis a confusion of targets, measures and, most disturbingly, theGovernment's beliefs about what causes poverty, backed by verylittle solid evidence."

The proposed new 'multi-dimensional' poverty measure, aims totake a variety of measures that the Government believes are linkedwith poverty and use these to create a single number to representUK child poverty. Surprisingly, most of the measures combined inthe proposals are more commonly found in those living outside ofpoverty than those inside.

Particularly concerning is the fact that, despite the majorityof families in poverty coming from working families, the Governmentwants to focus on worklessness as a measure of poverty.

"Excluding or diminishing the experience of low-paid familiesfrom any future measure of poverty would be a serious failing,"added Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Leader for the BaptistUnion of Great Britain. "Such people work tough jobs, often withunsocial hours. We agree that is vital to measure things such asunemployment and disability. These things can help us understandBritish society and the place of poverty within it. However, thesefactors combined make for a very bad measure of child poverty. Onlyrobust, well-evidenced indicators of poverty should be used tomeasure child poverty."

Next month the four Churches are due to publish a major reportentitled The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Ending ComfortableMyths About Poverty. The report will confront some of thecommon myths that people believe about those on benefits in theUK.

"Poverty is not just an issue facing the poor - it's a societalproblem and one that shames us all," added Marie Trubic, UnitedReformed Church spokesperson on public issues. "As Christians webelieve that we all have a duty to take responsibility for theinjustices that have become embedded in the society we have built.We should not simply accept the status quo and blame the poor fortheir circumstances. Instead, we must find new ways to build afairer future for all."


  1. A response to the Government's consultation by the BaptistUnion of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the UnitedReformed Church will soon be available online here.
  2. The Church of Scotland's response to the consultation will soonbe online here.