Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2003

Guy Palmer, Jenny North, Jane Carr and Peter Kenway

A comprehensive and independent guide, now in its sixth edition, to 50 indicators covering poverty, health, education and work.

Now in its sixth edition, this annual report assesses progress in tackling poverty and social exclusion, presenting the latest data in 50 indicators covering income poverty, health, education, work, housing and crime. In this year’s report, the indicators reflect developments over the last six years, making some judgements possible on the government’s progress in combating poverty and social exclusion. This year’s graphs also emphasise regional variation in the indicators across the nine English regions, Scotland and Wales.

Overall, the indicators present a positive picture: around half show improvement and only a handful show deterioration. In particular, the number of people living in low-income households is now on a steady downward trend, with income poverty lower than at any time during the 1990s. But earlier progress in education has stalled and there is no sign of reducing inequalities in health. Across the range of indicators, poverty and social exclusion are generally more prevalent in the North East than in other areas of the country. London has particular problems centred on low income and work and Scotland has particular problems centred on health.

Summary

Summary

The New Policy Institute has produced its sixth annual report of indicators of poverty and social exclusion. This year's report focuses on regional variations across England, Scotland and Wales. With five years of data now available to measure progress since Labour came to office in 1997, it is becoming much clearer where the Government's strategy for combating poverty and social exclusion is being successful - and where it is not.

  • With the number of people living in low-income households now on a steady downward trend, the latest figures (for 2001/02) passed the notable milestone of taking income poverty lower than at any time in the 1990s.
  • The main reason why the number of people in low-income households fell in the five years to 2001/02 is that there were fewer people in workless households. But, over the same period, the number of people in low-income, working households did not fall.
  • Out-of-work benefits to both working-age families with dependent children and to pensioners have risen by around 30 per cent in real terms since 1998, faster than earnings. This, plus the rise in tax credits, will have had a significant impact on the severity of poverty suffered by some low-income households even when it has not taken them above the low-income threshold.
  • In education, earlier progress in increasing the numbers of those with an adequate minimum level of qualification has stalled, with no further advance since 2000, compared with rapid progress during the second half of the 1990s. Around a quarter of young people at each of the ages of 11, 16 and 19 are still failing to reach a basic level of attainment.
  • There is no sign of any reduction since 1997 in the health inequalities which leave people with low incomes more likely to suffer serious health-related problems.
  • Across the range of indicators, problems of poverty and social exclusion are generally more prevalent in the North East than in other areas of the country. London has particular problems centred on low income and work and Scotland has particular problems centred on health.

About the project

The study draws together data from a wide range of sources, including government-funded surveys, some administrative data and some local and health authority returns. The work has only been possible due to the co-operation of civil servants (particularly statisticians) across government.

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