Poverty - PowerPoint by pengtt


									 Contemporary Policy & Society

What is Poverty and why does it exist in
         Contemporary Britain?
 What role does social work and public
health have in helping to combat poverty?
Does Social Work and the welfare state
      merely control an underclass?

What is Poverty? : Concepts and Measurement

   There are two obvious & contrasting ways of
   understanding and measuring what poverty

 • The Absolute – or subsistence - Approach &
 • The Relative Approach

   The latter developed from dealing with the
             short-comings of the first
            The Absolute Approach
• Initially used by Rowntree, and Booth in the late 19th/early
  20th century
• Surveys carried out because of clear evidence of people
  suffering from deprivation
• Rowntree‟s 1901 study – a man needed 3s7d; woman
  2s9d & children between 2s7d & 2s1d for food to survive
• Couple with 3 children would need 2s3d for clothing;
  1s10d for food and 10d for other items
• 1,465 families or 7,230 persons – 15.46% of population
• Precise measurement of what a person/family needs to
  subsist on – seemingly objective
• Often used by social workers to target clients – Charity
  Organisation Society - but only if they were „deserving‟
• Rowntree‟s research the basis for setting levels of
  benefits in the Beveridge Report
• Therefore such absolute poverty did disappear after 1948
Relative Approach : Reaction to Absolute


• It was clear by the late 1950s that WANT had
  not been eradicated
• Many in poverty despite being on
  supplementary benefits - levels set too low;
  low pay and older people had not built up
  enough contributions
• BUT formally – official figures – claimed that
  poverty was a thing of the past - been
• New researchers in the 1960s – notably Peter
  Townsend – brought a new, relative approach
  to research - & re-discovered poverty          4
    What is the Relative Approach?

• They adopted a relative approach to
  the study and researching of poverty
• Relative poverty is the problem of
  poverty in an affluent but unequal
• Basic needs may be met, but for those
  at the bottom many other conventional
  social expectations cannot be met
• This results potentially in the notion of
  social exclusion – more about later
Welfare State Never Got Rid of Poverty
• These relativists argued that supplementary
  benefit levels were set too low
• % points above sup benefit levels were used
  by many researchers - below 2/3s of average
• Abel Smith & Townsend in The Poor and the
  Poorest (1963) used a measure of below
  120% of supplementary benefit level
• They found that the poor were a third
  pensioners and another third were in low
  paid jobs
By the mid 1970s various relativist researchers argued
       that the poor were many & made up of:

• On supplementary benefits – 2,890,000
• Of which 1,739,000 were living on state pensions
  & despite sup benefits still poor
• 1,463,500 were unemployed and in poverty
• 300,000 one parent families – 890,000 – were
• 30% of the poor were children and their number
  2,225,000 was 17% of the total child population
• 225,000 sick and disabled people
• Low wage earners – 270,000 families dependent
  on wages below the set poverty line
 These are not exclusive categories some overlap
 This is familiar territory – for social workers and those
           working with disadvantaged people

• So according to these researchers the welfare state had
  not eradicated poverty
• It was also a situation that after the election of the
  Thatcher government in 1979 got considerably worse!
• This government defended the absolute definition – &
  indeed argued there was no real poverty in Britain


  "The last government let poverty re-gain its hold in
  Britain, to an extent unseen since before the last War.
  ...To put that right we now face a task of reconstruction
  as intense as the one that faced the post war Labour
  government and that’s why we need an anti-poverty
  strategy of the same ambition and breadth."
                            Tony Blair, January 1998        8
          Just how much worse….?
           1979                 1987
       11,570.000            15,360,000
(22% of popn) 140% of SB   (28% of popn)
         or below

       6,070,000             10, 200, 000
                            (19% of popn)
      (12% popn)
     on SB or below

       2,090,000               2,890,000
                             (5% of popn)
       (4% popn)
       Below SB
      Who are the poor? : Breadline Britain

Rowntree Foundation (Gordon et al 2000) estimated 26% -
                    14.5 millions – are poor
 Based on what people regard as essential : interesting
     relativist approach – the „consensual‟ or „perceived
                     deprivation‟ approach
          • 9.5 m cannot afford adequate housing
 • 8 m cannot afford 1 or more essential household good
  • 7.5 m are too poor to engage in activities considered
                   necessary by UK majority
  • 2 m children go without at least 2 things regarded as
       • 6.5 m adults go without adequate clothing
       • 4 m not properly fed by today‟s standards
         • 10.5 m suffer from financial insecurities

                Characteristics of the Poor
• Poor people do behave differently – lack opportunities; proper
  diets; amenities – cuts down peoples‟ social participation – but
  not good practice to explain poverty behaviourally – see below

• Combination of linked problems – yes – but these people are not
  cut off from society…quite the reverse e.g. of Sheffield disco

• Poor areas – very difficult to target policy in areas – explain

• Social Problems – particularly disintegration of families….yes
  when or where high unemployment exists

• High teenage pregnancy rates

• Poverty and Race - highest rates of unemployment in Leicester
  (mid 1980s) in a 93% white ward – 12.3%. One with 67% Asian
  popn. – 6.7%. Not a race issue – maybe some correlation with
  discrimination in labour market

• Discrimination may make minority ethnic groups vulnerable to
  poverty – but race does not cause deprivation                11
           How can we explain poverty?
                        Fourfold :

• Individual – personal characteristics – people are lazy,
  choose to be poor
• Familial – cycle of deprivation; inter-generational –
  families choose to be poor…..children have no choice?
• Socio-cultural – behaviour produced by circumstance
  not choice – culture of poverty or underclass –
  Wilson (1987) argues that economic marginality of men
  in ghettos in US means that women do not commit –
  one parent families
• Structural – inequalities someone at the bottom

   Please note that these positions „mirror‟ the welfare
       ideologies – see last week‟s lecture – week 3

  Also note that it is easy to see/appreciate why some
      people blame the poor for their own situation
      Permanent Poor/Underclass Issue
• Many on the New Right suggest that to fully
  comprehend poverty one has to understand
  the choices people make when confronted
  by social security policies
• The most famous is of course that of Charles
  Murray (1984). He suggests that welfare
  policies for the poor actually operate to
  encourage poor people to seek welfare
  dependency rather than self sufficiency
• This underclass argument suggests that
  such welfare measures should be withdrawn
  and the poor left to fend for themselves
• Thatcher and Reagan attracted politically but
  never went the whole hog…politically
  unacceptable…but many cuts…hence
  increases in poverty                         13
  What do you think of Murray‟s permanent underclass
                     argument? (1)
• It is factually inaccurate – there is not a permanent
  underclass – trapped inter-generationally in poverty
  – nor any agreed definition
• See this in Murray‟s work – refers to “a type of
  poverty not a cause of poverty” – it is a
  behaviourally driven concern – focus on
  undesirable behaviour – illegitimacy (single
  parents); crime; failure to hold down job – and
  support children; truancy; drug taking; casual
• It is a classic example of an individualistic
  explanation of poverty & social problems
• One advantage – attractive to media – simple
  explanation of complex problem - Murray and The
  Sunday Times serialisation…..does therefore
  provoke discussion of poverty                     14
 What do you think of Murray‟s permanent underclass
                    argument? (2)

• These realities do make for „juicy‟ media treatment! Frank
  Field played media at own game by also describing these
  groups as an underclass – see Field F (1989) Losing Out:
  the Emergence of Britain‟s Underclass, Blackwell
• In the recent years the largest categories of people
  vulnerable to poverty are young single people not
  working; families with young children; female single
  parents; people with disabilities and older pensioners

  Anybody choosing the Underclass as a topic must read
   Charles Murray & the Underclass : the Developing
                 Debate – available free at
  Additional bibliography on Underclass will be made
 In fact, Poverty can be a Temporary Phenomenon for

• Few groups are entirely immune to poverty – but some
  have greater access to sources of credit
• Most of the population is likely to have been on a low
  income at some point in their life
• Unemployment affects many but at present not many long
  term; lone parenthood on average in UK lasts 3.5 years with
  many then finding new partners & many working whilst lone
• But there are many who are also not vulnerable to poverty –
  should we call them an overclass?
• Between 1979 and 1996 the incomes of the Britain‟s richest
  10% grew by 68% - whilst those of the poorest fell by 12%
• Whatever poverty is – it is clearly connected to its opposite!
Example : In and Out of Poverty

           Length of time in poverty

What Murray and the New Right might have a point about is the
     length of time that a person or family stays in poverty.

     How long one is living on a low income is crucial to
            the type of problems one will face.
               As Kempson (1996, 47) states:
    “People‟s experiences change the longer they
  live on a low income – from acute worry initially,
  through a period when they feel they are coping
   with the situation, and finally to chronic despair
     when they can see no light at the end of the
          She draws an analogy with swimmers
        Permanent Poor/Underclass? 1

Another insight of the underclass thesis is that
  long term dependency on cash benefits is

      Elwood in his book Poor Support
  (1988 p 237) agreed that “long term cash-
   based welfare for the healthy is inherently

      Permanent Poor/Underclass? 2

            Elwood writes (1988, p 7):
 “People are not poor because they lack money.
  They are poor because they do not have a job,
  because their wages are too low, because they
   are trying to raise a child single-handedly, or
    because they are undergoing some crisis.”
   But where Murray is absolutely wrong is in
     suggesting we should remove benefits!!
   Don‟t remove welfare – reform it/add to it to
 recognise people‟s choices – and remember my
example of Keynes and the accelerator in reverse
                – i.e. the Depression
           Triggers to Poverty

• Elwood focussed on which „triggers‟
  preceded individual moves in & out of welfare
• Conclusion was that people needed
  opportunities and incentives
• Subsidisation of poor wages and training
• New Labour has taken this type of academic
  advice very seriously – see next week on
  social exclusion

Is the welfare state in its traditional form too costly? (1)
               Problem of Social Security?

     The underclass debate – and much
    controversy about poverty is, of course,
    really a debate about the costs of social
          NOT education or the NHS

  It is the size of the social security budgets
      that are targeted by the likes of Murray
                   & Keith Joseph
      Is the welfare state in its traditional form too
     costly? (2) Who Benefits from Social Security?

      Social security expenditure in 1998-99 was
               approximately £100 billions

               People are living longer
          Pensions alone accounted for 48%
                   Largest category
            2nd largest – Disability – 25%
                    Children – 8%
             Sick Pay and Widows – 4%

The targets of the tabloid press – single parents and the
              unemployed – 15% combined!
Is the welfare state in its traditional form too
           costly? (3) Comparisons

Comparing expenditure on pensions; disability;
 and pensions between US, UK, Sweden; NL;
     Germany; Belgium; Denmark & Italy

 UK is second lowest to US on pensions and
 Sweden 12% more expenditure on pensions
UK 2nd highest after NL on disability – but this is
           a very recent phenomenon

  Well – how well is New Labour Doing?

• You can all see this in the handout entitled Monitoring Poverty
  & Social Exclusion 2007. These are annual reports if we take
  one from 2005 based on a report entitled Poverty in Britain:
  the Impact of Government Policies since 1997 by &
  Sutherland H, Piachaud D & Sefton T, JRF, 2005, we can see
• Relative poverty fell largely due to employment rates and some
  benefit changes
• Limit to employment strategies as a way of combating poverty
• Great success in reducing child poverty but further reductions
  will be increasingly hard to achieve
• Low pay remains a problem – see last 2 slides
• More redistributivist policies required – or else relative poverty
  will get worse – as the better off get better off
• Such redistributive policies would be unpopular.

Low Pay as Source of Poverty 1

         Low Pay as a Source of Poverty 2

For just over half of all employees their own market income is sufficient to enable their
households to avoid poverty. This market income is almost entirely earnings, but also
includes self-employment and investment income. Another 21 per cent avoid poverty
 by means of partner's market income. Benefits and tax credits play a relatively minor
    role in taking these households out of poverty, less so than income from other

                                 household members

   So where does social work fit into tacking
In a basic sense there are three obvious & opposing
                    answers to this.
       Social work is concerned centrally with:
 • Managing the worst aspects & effects of poverty
            • Trying to eradicate poverty
           • Reinforcing people in poverty

  Maybe we need to think about different aspects of
                     social work

 We will start next week‟s lecture on social exclusion
                 with a similar inventory

Let‟s examine a recent text that looks at these options
Social Work under New Labour : Social Work as Tough

  In a most intriguing text Bill Jordan & his brother Charlie
       – entitled Social Work and the Third Way : Tough
     Love as Social Policy (Sage 2000) - have produced a
      most useful analysis of where contemporary social
                         work is heading.

   Bill Jordan has also summarised their arguments in an
         article entitled Tough Love : Social Work, Social
    Exclusion and the Third Way, British Journal of Social
                  Work, Vol. 31, pp 527-546, 2001

               Just what are their arguments?
  The Jordans‟ arguments with regard to
       contemporary social work:
• New Labour has marginalised local authority based
  social work to a limited role in assessing & managing
  risks – more specifically a limited range of tasks to do
  with child protection, adult care & youth justice
• New Labour appears to have no faith in social work
  as a vehicle for combating social exclusion & poverty
• Preferring to create a range of new agencies – Sure
  Start, Single Regeneration Budget, Social Exclusion
  Unit, Connexions & many other local agencies that
  have explicit roles in combating social exclusion and
  enforcing tough love – enforcing work discipline
• Ironically many of these agencies appear to draw on
  many past social work methods and traditions
• These new expanding agencies, however, do not
  appear to identify with the social work profession in
  any way – and do not want to be trained on social 30
  work courses
         Social Work has become…….

• Cut off from the roots of the communities it is
  supposed to serve & from new progressive
  developments in welfare provision that are
  explicitly concerned with trying to combat
  poverty & social deprivation
• Social work is trapped in its own narrow
  professional ambitions to be seen as
  legitimate profession like medicine and law
• Concentrating on implementing centrally
  drawn up targets and regulations

    Additionally, the Jordans‟ see fundamental flaws in New
      Labour‟s Approach to Social Deprivation generally

•   As we have seen New Labour‟s main approach to social exclusion is
    INCLUSION through employment
•   Yet the forms of employment offered in welfare programmes are almost
    always necessarily in low paid work – placing people in continued
    deprivation and positional disadvantage
•   New Labour‟s social exclusion programme promises better welfare
    services in return for citizens being self responsible and hard working
•   Tough love welfare regimes – ensuring self responsibility - end up
    marginalising more people who then come into the orbit of SSDs as
    being at risk!
•   Better off households will inevitably continue to pursue strategies of
    positional advantage – living in the best neighbourhoods, using the
    better schools, etc
•   In this sense social exclusion is as much the result of the activities of
    the better off as it is of anything else!

                    Is there anything that can be done?

  A Broader Conception of Social Work?

   Social work could be part of a set of strategies that explicitly
     recognised the problems in the type of strategies that New
          Labour is employing to combat social exclusion.
This would involve a much broader, more community development
                        view of social work

   Shifting cultural patterns through accessing real community
    networks….and engaging whole communities…not through
                            ministerial dictat

    Parton and O‟Byrne ( 2000) describe this style of work as
        constructive social work in a book of the same name

I would encourage students to read the final chapter (Chp 9) of the
       Jordans book and Chp 9 of J Pierson‟s Tackling Social

          Some Examples (1) : Skills

• Advocacy – act in clients best interests, help liaise
  with potential sources of problems/help; being
  dogged and assertive
• Community Work – seeking out informal community
  leaders, creating links/alliances; recognising that
  unequal power/resource distribution is a political
  issue that, in some instances, needs challenging, etc
• Welfare Rights – promotion of the rights of all users
  at all times with regard to entitlements
• Building relevant partnerships – trying overcome
  deep cultural and organisational differences that „trap‟
  problems in between their various expertises
• Promotion of user participation – going beyond
  participation of users to actually delegate power –
  and allow user control where feasible
          Some Examples (2) : Practices

• Credit Unions
• Maximising income - take up campaigns for means tested
  benefits, etc
• SWAP schemes
• Bulk buy cooperative schemes
• Promotion of funding for local Family Centres – or Community
• Building up community links
• Local participation in planning – visioning
• Capacity building in individuals, families and neighbourhoods
• Providing resources for skills development – individual support
  and informal education
 All of these are discussed in detail in J Pierson‟s Tackling Social
                 Exclusion – see reading for this week


To top