A More Equal Society? New Labour, Poverty, Inequality and Exclusion
A more equal society? New Labour, poverty, inequality and exclusion
Edited by John Hills and Kitty Stewart
New Labour has taken poverty and social exclusion very seriously and made genuine progress in reducing disadvantage, especially among families with children. But an independent, in-depth assessment of the Government's record on social exclusion since it came to power warns that although the tide has turned in key areas, Britain remains a very unequal society. The new study, by a team of members and associates of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) at the London School of Economics, was launched at a seminar at 11 Downing Street. Its detailed review of policy areas includes education, employment, health and neighbourhood renewal, as well as economic disadvantage. It draws on more than 500 separate sources from evaluations of policy initiatives, government reports and statistics, and academic studies.
A More Equal Society? observes that in 1997, when New Labour was first elected, poverty and inequality had reached levels unprecedented in post-war history. The Government's commitment to tackling social exclusion has been in contrast to its predecessors and includes high-profile targets for cutting child poverty and ensuring 'over 10 to 20 years' that no one will be seriously disadvantaged by the place where they live. Where Government has concentrated its efforts, the study suggests there is now clear evidence of progress. Child poverty has been reduced by its tax and benefit reforms. New analysis of spending patterns also shows that low-income families with children, who have benefited most from the reforms, have increased spending on goods for children, such as clothing, footwear, games and toys, as well as on food (but not alcohol and tobacco). But the study argues that there are gaps in the Government's strategy in other areas. For instance, the latest available figures show that poverty among working-age adults without children has reached record levels. While some vulnerable groups have been the target of special initiatives, others have not. And in the case of asylum seekers, government policies have actively increased social exclusion, especially in relation to employment, income and housing.
Prof John Hills , Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion and co-editor of the study, said: 'There are substantial differences between the policies pursued in the years since 1997 and those followed previously. In some of the most important areas, the tide has turned and policy has contributed to turning that tide. This is no mean achievement. However, it does not follow that policy has already succeeded, or that Britain has yet become a more equal society. In virtually all of the areas discussed there is still a very long way to go to reach an unambiguous picture of success. Sustained and imaginative effort will be needed to make further progress and to reach groups not touched by policy so far.'
The study, published by The Policy Press, and its contributing research were supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council. A summary of findings is available from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Also published, to celebrate the Joseph Rowntree Foundation centenary, is One Hundred Years of Poverty and Policy, which can be purchased or downloaded from the JRF website.
Further details and order information is available from the Policy Press.
News Posted: 12 January 2005
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