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Causes of poverty in spotlight

07 December 2012

THE declining importance of marriage in society is deemed to be a "bad thing" by the public, a new poll commissioned by the think tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) suggests. It is embarking on a "forensic examination" of the "fundamental causes of poverty".

Launched on Wednesday of last week, the study, Breakthrough Britain II, continuing into 2014, will explore the five causes of poverty identified by the Centre in its first report, commissioned by David Cameron and published in 2007: welfare dependency, family breakdown, educational failure, drug and alcohol addiction, and serious personal debt.

Of the 1722 people surveyed in November, 31 per cent said that having two parents at home was most important for children to have when growing up. Forty-six per cent cited a safe community and environment. Six per cent chose having enough money. Sixty per cent agreed that "Marriage has become less important and this is a bad thing." Fifty-two per cent agreed that "If we want to have any hope of mending our broken society, family and parenting is where we've got to start."

Poverty campaigners expressed caution about CSJ's message.

Liam Purcell, of Church Action on Poverty, said on Thursday of last week: "We are alarmed that, certainly in some quarters, people in poverty are being blamed for [their] poverty by messages that they are doing something wrong. We are facing an economy where there is very little work available, and the work that is available doesn't pay. Family breakdown is in many cases a consequence of poverty."

The chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham, said: "The main cause of child poverty today is having a parent who is a security guard, cleaner, care worker, or any one of the five million jobs in Britain today that pay less than a living wage. . .

"Of course it can be a damaging experience for children if their parents' relationship ends, but this is just as true for wealthy families as for the poorest. The wisdom of generations also tells us that when poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window. So the more help we can give to the poorest families to protect them against the impacts of the double-dip recession, the better we will help them keep their relationships intact."

The think tank Demos launched a new model for measuring poverty last week. Based on a survey of 40,000 households, which explored 20 indicators, it breaks down child poverty into five types. The largest group of low-income families are defined as "grafters" - around 90 per cent are in work.

Jo Salter, a researcher, said: "We cannot make generalisations about poverty from any one person or group's experiences."

Today, one quarter of children in Britain are raised in single-parent families, compared with 13 per cent in 1979. The latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions show that, in single-parent households, 41 per cent of children live in poverty, compared with 23 per cent in two-parent families.

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