Neil Dymond-Green explores how data in the UK Data Service collection has been feeding into a UK Parliament committee inquiry into children in poverty.
The UK Parliament Work and Pensions Committee has, since 2021, been conducting a multi-part inquiry into children in poverty, a highly relevant topic given both the effects of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis.
The first part of the enquiry had three areas of interest:
- how child poverty can most accurately be measured and defined
- what the impact of child poverty is, and how it should be measured
- how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should work with other parts of government to reduce the numbers of children living in poverty.
Further details of what the committee asked to find out about are in the call for evidence.
The second part of the inquiry concerned the experiences of children who have no recourse to public funds (NRPF).
We wanted to explore how data in the UK Data Service collection supported evidence submitted and the recommendations made by the committee.
Children in poverty: Measurement and targets
The committee received written evidence from 39 sources and heard oral evidence on four separate occasions from key experts in the field.
An assessment of the evidence submitted shows that data from the UK Data Service was either directly cited or informed research that was referenced in a third of the written submissions.
The Trussel Trust, who support a nationwide network of food banks and campaign for an end to their need, directly cited the following data collections accessed through the UK Data Service in their submission:
In addition, another submission cited the Trussel Trust’s State of Hunger 2019 report which used data available in the UK Data Service collection: Family Resources Survey, Households Below Average Income and the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.
The submission by the Children’s Society directly cited the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), while their submission also references the Society’s 2019 Good Childhood Report, which used both MCS and Understanding Society.
The evidence submitted by members of the Health Inequalities Policy Research Group at the University of Liverpool, as well as What Works for Children’s Social Care, also referenced research using the MCS.
The Social Metrics Commission
The Social Metrics Commission, who made its own submission to the enquiry, has been developing new metrics for measuring poverty (including lived experience) since 2016. The Commission used data from the Family Resources Survey, Households Below Average Income and Understanding Society to create the measure – you can read more about the Commission’s measures in our blog post and case study.
In 2019, the UK Government’s Department of Work and Pensions announced it would create Experimental Statistics based on the Commission’s measurement framework, although to date there has been no significant work done on these statistics.
The Commission recommended to the Committee that the statistics based on its measures be developed.
They noted that the measures would not focus on child poverty alone but would support a broader understanding of the nature of poverty and issues derived from it, allowing for a wider range of strategies to be developed which could tackle poverty, including child poverty.
It is worth noting that several other submissions to the Committee, including those by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children UK and a joint submission by Contact, Family Fund and Scope, also supported the implementation of statistics based on the Social Metrics Commission measurement framework.
While the Committee included a recommendation that statistics based on the Commission’s framework be implemented, the UK Government maintains that this is still under consideration.
Committee recommendations positively responded to by HM Government
Other Committee recommendations which link back to the data-enhanced submissions which the UK Government has positively responded to include:
- creating “a single dashboard of indicators with household income data publications from the Office for National Statistics”.
- “Working with HMRC and other UK producers of income statistics, DWP should develop a dashboard of child income-related poverty ‘lead’ indicators which are closer to real time and supplement existing survey data sources. DWP should publish this data as part of its child poverty measurement framework.”
- “liaise with other countries, universities, and international organisations in developing a single dashboard for reporting income-related measures of poverty and the wider social deprivations on which the Government currently reports.”
- “the Government should set clear, ambitious and measurable objectives and plans for reducing child poverty. The Government should report to Parliament annually on progress in implementing its child poverty objectives and plans.”
- “DWP should liaise with other government departments to identify lessons for how it might take a more constructive approach to sharing data related to child poverty.”
While child poverty – and indeed its measurement – is a complex issue to address, it is very timely.
Consequently, it is positive to see that high-quality data made available for researchers through the UK Data Service can support research and policymaking to begin to tackle the effects of poverty on many children’s lives in the UK.
About the author
Neil Dymond-Green is the Service Director for Impact for the UK Data Service.