Why numbers matter in reducing child poverty
Earlier today I was asked the question: “Exactly how many children live in poverty in the UK today?” Working for Impetus-PEF, which invests in charities that support the educational attainment and employment prospects of children and young people living in poverty, this should have been an easy question to answer. However, there is very little consensus. A quick Google search brought up the following results:
- Save the children – 1.6 million
- BBC – 2.3 million
- Joseph Roundtree Foundation – 2.3 million
- The Government – 2.5 million
- Child Poverty Action Group – 3.5 million
- Barnardos – 3.5 million
Yes, these figures are from different dates and, of course, different organisations. A recent speech from Alan Milburn, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission suggests the rate is closer to 2 million, but, more importantly, that the targets set for reducing child poverty are likely to be missed by some considerable margin.
The numbers are important for two reasons; firstly because behind every number is a young life. Secondly just knowing the numbers is not enough, we must use this data to inform our action. Unless we know who, how many and where the children are who live in poverty, how can we plan adequately for the services and support systems that will be required to help them escape their situation?
To be serious about reducing poverty, we need to agree on the definition, get serious about collecting the data and use it to plan and manage our interventions and services. Not only will managing in this way lead to greater impact, we will also be much clearer about when we are failing and when we are succeeding in the mission to reduce – or let’s be brave – eradicate child poverty.