Iain Duncan Smith defends his plan to redefine child poverty and scrap binding targets

The Work and Pensions Secretary says the move will change Government policy

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Indy Politics

Iain Duncan Smith has defended his decision to redefine the way child poverty is measured.

The Government plans to scrap the legally binding target about reducing income poverty among children.

It will replace the legally binding measure with a duty to report on the number of children in households achieving GCSEs and the level of worklessness. 

There will be no legal obligation to hit these targets, however.

“Due to a lack of adequate measurement, it has been possible to ignore the true level of poverty – not just measured by a calculation of relative income, where you are considered to be in poverty if your income is below 60 per cent of median income,” Mr Duncan Smith said.

“But rather, in assessing the barriers people face to improving their own situation – whether that be problems of debt, relationship breakdown, poor education, addiction, or something else.”

Speaking at the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, which he founded in 2004, the Work and Pensions Secretary said the new measures would change the way Government policy was formed.

“By measuring these things, it is my hope that future governments can never again ignore or misrepresent the true nature of poverty in Britain,” Mr Duncan Smith said.

“To paraphrase Joseph Stiglitz: we are creating the right metrics so that we will strive for the right things.”

Under the plans, to be included in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, the Child Poverty and Social Mobility Commission would also be renamed the Social Mobility Commission.

Labour, who brought in the targets when they were last in government, accused the Government of changing the definition of targets to suit them. 

A coalition of anti-poverty charities has described the decision to redefine the measure as “bizarre”.

Mr Duncan Smith made the speech on the same as even as MPs voted to approve parts of the bill – though large aspects of it have been rejected by the House of Lords and send back for revision.

Further difficult votes are expected on the Bill in the House of Lords, which has the power to delay legislation.