Tough truth on poverty

December 19, 1997

IF IT IS true that we do not need 54 professors of social policy to tell us that the poor would be better off if they had more money (THES, December 12), it is perhaps equally true that we do not need a Social Exclusion Unit to tell us why the poor are poor: because they have systematically had resources taken away from them.

David Walker's article is unhelpful in polarising academic opinion into two apparently irreconcilable camps. Most of us have also been arguing for years that the long-term answer to the poverty of millions of adults is good quality, useful, secure and well-paid work and that poverty requires dynamic explanations rather than simplistic snapshots.

In the short term, however, the desperate poverty of many people, including lone parents, the sick and disabled and their children, has also to be addressed politically by reversing the redistribution of resources away from the poor which characterised the policies of the last government.

As it happens, this could also be done without undermining the government's manifesto pledge on expenditure.

Gary Craig Professor of social policy University of Humberside

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