Income and Poverty

Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion: Why Britain Needs a Key Indicators Report

  • Published 2nd Mar 1998
  • Authors: Catherine Howarth, , Peter Kenway,
  • Category: Income and Poverty

This paper argues the case for a regular report monitoring poverty and exclusion in the UK. The Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion series will consist of public documents based around a set of key indicators. Its basic aim is to serve as a framework for a public debate on poverty and social exclusion, providing a substantial amount of information each year which cumulatively shows the pace and degree of change. If it is to succeed in that, it needs to achieve three things: 

  • First, it needs to be published regularly, probably every year, with each keyindicator being updated in each edition. 
  • Second, since many indicators, especially those showing income distributions, are hotly debated by politicians and experts, the arguments around them need to be presented in a way that is generally seen as being impartial between contending points of view. Contentious interpretation needs to be clearly signposted and separated from more basic descriptive passages. 
  • Third, the report is aimed at a wide audience including politicians: local authority councillors and officials; charities and pressure groups; public libraries; business; and private individuals. To reach such a wide and diverse audience, the report has to use accessible language and present the basic data as clearly as possible using charts, maps and tables. 

As well as tracking progress over time, the report is also a chance to show the geographical variation of poverty and social exclusion, providing a sense of how different areas compare both on an absolute level and in terms of rates of improvement. We will also include international comparators, which place the British situation in context. Our policy approach in this country has been very different in a number of areas from that of other Europeans, notably on labour markets and social security payments. The report should show how different the outcomes are now and whether the differences are fading or growing over time.

Although, in reality, policies often take many years before they can be fully evaluated, this report would act as a framework for predicting what effects proposed policies would have on people in or near to poverty.