Poverty statistics condemned as inaccurate

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Indy Politics
THE Government came under fire from two sources yesterday for failing to collect potentially damaging information on poverty and community care services which would reflect badly on its policies.

Social services directors from all round the country condemned the Department of Health's decision not to monitor gaps in services and failure to meet people's needs when the new care in the community system starts in April.

And economists from the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies said the Government was presenting an inaccurate picture which underestimated poverty among pensioners and working families with mortgages because it had changed the way statistics were collected.

After a meeting of the executive council of the Association of Directors of Social Services, Denise Plant, its senior vice-president, warned that some councils could face legal action if, after assessing the community care needs of elderly, sick and disabled people, they failed to provide services to meet those needs because of lack of money.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies report on poverty called on the Government to publish figures showing the number of people whose incomes fall below even basic Income Support levels. Following the government's decision in 1988 to abandon the Low Income Families statistics, there is no longer any information of the combined effects on poverty of the non-take-up of benefit and disqualifications from Income Support.

Instead the Department of Social Security publishes Households Below Average Income which, according to the institute's report, ignores the more than 1 million pensioners living below income support levels.

Poverty Statistics: A Guide for the Perplexed; Institute of Fiscal Studies; 7 Ridgemount Street, London WC1.