The DWP boss just stuck two fingers up at the poorest kids

Therese Coffey on Sky News and the DWP logo
Steve Topple

In a letter, work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey may as well have stuck two fingers up at the poorest children in the UK. Because her dismissal of the concerns of an influential parliamentary committee was staggering.

Another day, another inquiry into the Tories

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has launched an inquiry into child poverty. It states that:

A new wide-ranging inquiry from the Work and Pensions Committee is to examine what steps the Government could take to reduce the numbers of children who grow up in poverty in the UK.

Official figures show that even before the coronavirus pandemic child poverty was a growing issue, affecting more than four million children and impacting on well-being and life prospects.

The initial focus of the Committee will be on the best way to measure child poverty and how the DWP works with other Government departments and local authorities to reduce the number of young people living in poverty.

The inquiry is then expected to examine how well the social security system is working for children, the experiences of families with no recourse to public funds, and support for working parents and separated families.

So far, so good. Because the issue of child poverty is one that desperately needs addressing.

Child poverty: out of control?

In the last decade, child poverty began to rise again – after falling previously. The Conversation summed this up in a graph:

Child poverty 2010-2019

But herein lies the problem. Because the figures above are based on one way of measuring poverty. If you take another method, devised by the Social Metrics Commission, then it’s higher but has remained fairly stable:

SMC Child Poverty

You can also measure child poverty by looking at low income households. So, the waters can be muddied around what constitutes child poverty, what doesn’t, and what parameters you’re using. For example, as the Conversation noted, it’s this muddying which allowed Boris Johnson to claim child poverty had fallen – by him using only one measure.

So, the Work and Pensions Select Committee is starting its inquiry by looking into how the government measures child poverty. In advance of this, it wrote to Coffey. And her response was dire, at best.

What, how, and when?

In November 2020, the committee’s chair and Labour MP Stephen Timms, asked Coffey four questions. Some of it was around the government’s plan to look at using the Social Metrics Commission’s definition of child poverty. He wanted to know:

  1. What steps are you taking to ensure that meaningful progress is made on developing a measure of poverty that could underpin Government policy and strategy, in the way described by Baroness Stroud?
  2. When do you now expect the first experimental statistics developed using the Social Metrics Commission’s methodology to be published?
  3. Beyond the publication of the initial statistics, what plans do you have for further work to embed this methodology in Government decision-making? . …
  4. When do you expect to be in a position to assess whether this measure should be adopted as the Government’s official measure of poverty?

Originally, the government was supposed to publish the first set of experimental statistics on child poverty, based on the commission’s work, last year. But as Timms’ alluded to, that never happened.

Coffey replied in December 2020. And she effectively didn’t even bother to answer Timms’ questions.

The DWP: screw you

You can read the full text of her letter here. But in short, she said that:

we have suspended work that had been agreed with my predecessor on a new poverty metric.

She failed to respond to any of Timms’ questions. Then, Coffey claimed that:

This Government has undertaken considerable thinking and introduced a number of practical interventions to help disadvantaged people during this difficult period.

And she also said:

I maintain the best way to lift people out of poverty is to get them into work.

This is simply not the reality of the situation. The chaos of the free school meals saga is one example; where it took the intervention of a footballer to get the government to back down. Latest GDP figures show a potential “double-dip” recession – so the employment market is not looking promising in 2021. And meanwhile, the government still hasn’t said if it will be keeping the £20 Universal Credit uplift this coming April.

A “stab in the dark”

Timms said that:

The first step to tackling any problem must be to ensure there is a clear picture of the issue. Sadly, the Government has put valuable work on measuring poverty on the back burner. Without agreed measures of poverty, there can be no sensible strategy for tackling it and any policies will be little more than a stab in the dark.

The impact the pandemic has had on child poverty has been huge. So, you’d think now would be the time for the government to fix the measurement chaos. At least 120,000 more children are now in a desperate situation. But Coffey thinks it’s acceptable to effectively shove her fingers in her ears. Yet more shameful conduct from the Conservative government.

Featured image via Sky News – YouTube and Wikimedia 

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  • Show Comments
    1. The DWP boss just stuck two fingers up at the poorest kids
      ///
      Just this say on this article all Tory Govt members including Boris
      //
      To–pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey –Boris
      WILL you Govt member be getting your pay rise in April 2021??
      Dose the attack on poor kids plus family’s living in poverty now
      The Tory Govt made in the first place Boris + Ms Coffey make you
      feel good before you set out to work in Parliament?
      //
      Remember this fact both Boris + Coffey all the poor people vote has well
      This stunt of attacking the poorer kids + family will not be forgotten
      come any new Election held in U.K. areas.
      FINALLY!
      To all voter should we Tax pay more to Govt members like the 2 I speak about
      In this post just for them sitting on their ASSES doing pee all to sort out the
      poverty + poor family starving this Tory Govt made possible in the first place
      by benefit cuts + closing all Govt help for poverty-stricken family’s yes or no?
      Time to hold Tory Govt M.P. + Minister + Boris to account voters FULLY.
      Your NONE votes for ANY Tory party members will hold them to account in
      any new election starting in 2021 with local area Tory Cllr as they support
      their party benefit cuts plus funding help made by them in LONDON area.

    2. If the conservatives really want to save money but at the same time keep the extra £20per week universal credit in place it’s very simple the DWP should get rid of the assessment companies who find people fit for work and should only listen to the persons doctor and also specialists these assessment people have got to fail so many everyday and every week. Why use a company who gets paid millions of pounds who just lie by giving false reports just so they get a bonus in there wages and when a claimmemt decides to fight by the courts how many people win at court I myself had to fight for over 5 years but I moved If I never it would not have taken so long but it took alot out of me and my health and mental state. By the time I had won against the DWP I could only get my money backdated for 2 half years but it was worth it knowing I had beaten the DWP and the conservative government the court had the evidence from my doctor and the spine specialist even when the DWP could have dropped the case and just awarded me the right benefit they refused even with the evidence but justice has now been done.

    3. Therese Coffey is the bastard child of an illicit liaison between Ann “Shackle them to the beds!” Widdecombe and Ian “If all you can move is one finger you can still push a button!” Duncan-Smith!

    4. With Universal Credit making people Homeless, Boris and Chums seem to think that they are Lords and Barons ruling us Peasants. No UK Government; Labour or Tory ever helps the People or makes their lives better. Wealth must be preserved for the Chattering Classes.

    5. UPDATE
      After watching live H.O.Commons debate on U-Credit £20.00 MESS
      //
      Pressure is mounting on the government to ‘do the right thing’.
      and keep the Universal Credit uplift. Just to AKS Tory D.W.P. Minister + Boris + Sunak where the hell Were you all at the live debate on SCAM U-Credit yesterday? Held In H.O.Commons possibly holding up the Parliament Beer BARS?
      //
      While a young arrogant well-off mum’s boy your understudy
      for Tory Govt D.W.P. Minister ranted s**t plus p**s taking us public
      voters that need the extra cash of £20.00 in his prophetic speech live from front bench I watch all his hypocritical words plus rant to over parties within Govt?
      //
      He may not need the cash because of rich parent that pay for everything he may do within Tory party Not including his NON education (to speak in public to voters properly) But take the pee out of poor people the understudy of Tory Minister will not be forgotten by us public now after yesterday’s C**p from him over.
      The much needed £20.00 payment within U-Credit benefits plus E.S.A. legacy.
      Payments –If this is the new Tory party members up Brining members M.P.s after running our country. You Tories will or maybe never have power again in Govt after next G.E. TIME Boris, you need to train your understudy’s better to deal with live debate in H.O.Commons the kid yesterday–yes a wet behind the ears Kid in the U-Credit debate get NO pass or education marks form me as a taxpayer or voters Boris I that has 40 + years on his contempt towards the poor plus low paid workers in the U.K. in U-Credit debate yesterday 18.1.2021 I could educate him the error of his ways to the less well-off low paid workers that need this cash help his C**p cost you voters Boris. You will need for next G.E. if Tory wish to stay in power.
      FINALLY –
      Boris ALL the Minister involved in any Dept Debates within H.O.Commons live should be at the front bench them self to be held accountable not young arrogant rich KIDS telling us public + voters what to do. This problem needs addressing now before any more live Debates IN Parliament run by Tory Minister Boris.

    6. Personally I thought she wasn’t even funny when she was “Mrs Black” in the “Captain Fantastic” section of “Do Not Adjust Your Set” on ITV back in the 60s ( or was that her sister Denise Coffey?)

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