Report lifts veil on poor ghettos

18th December 1998 at 00:00
More than two and a half million children in Britain live in households where nobody works. And more than three million children - one in three - live in households with less than half the average income.

These striking statistics are included in a report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published this week. The authors urge the Government to include these measures in 46 key indicators that could be used to compile an official report on poverty and social exclusion, to be updated annually.

The figures, a full account of which appeared in The TES on November 13, suggest poverty is not only becoming concentrated in particular households but also in particular schools.

In 1994, 75 local education authorities recorded a reduction in the concentration of children entitled to free school meals in particular primary schools, while 33 recorded an increase. In 1997, the position had been reversed, with 37 recording a reduction and 67 an increase.

Other suggested indicators for monitoring poverty are: exclusions from secondary schools (up fourfold since the start of the decade), births to school-age mothers and incidence of low birthweight babies (both increasing).

Progress on these measures would show how ministers were faring in their battle against social exclusion, just as the Bank of England's regular inflation reports, started in 1992, indicate how the Government's economic policy is doing.

Compiled by the New Policy Institute, the indicators are constructed from official data on household income, employment, health, education, crime and housing. The researchers would like to have included other indicators, such as child nutrition, but could not because of lack of data.

Four maps in the report illustrate the geographical concentration of poverty and social exclusion. They show the "worst" 25 per cent of parliamentary constituencies on four indicators: the percentage of state-educated pupils failing even to obtain one grade C at GCSE, the highest numbers of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds, the highest premature mortality rates and the lowest voting turnout in last year's general election. The worst 10 per cent are specifically highlighted.

Britain's inner-city areas, particularly in the old industrial heartlands of the north of England, Midlands and central Scotland, show the greatest concentration of problems.

The 13 constituencies that are among the worst 10 per cent on all four counts are in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham and London.

But the maps also show the hidden poverty in more unexpected places, such as the seaside resort of Blackpool, which suffers from poor educational attainment, high premature mortality and low electoral turnout.

And some constituencies, such as Sevenoaks in Kent and Brighton Kemptown on the south coast, score among the worst on educational attainment but not on the other three counts.

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion: Labour's inheritance, by Catherine Howarth, Peter Kenway, Guy Palmer and Cathy Street is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZW (01904 430033) price #163;16.95, plus #163;1.50 p amp; p. Summary of findings available free from JRF at The Homestead, 40 Water End, York YO30 6WP or from the JRF Website: www.jrf.org.uk

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