Newham Mayor’s poverty warning

Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales has issued a warning about the Government’s plans to redefine poverty.

He made his comments while welcoming a report focusing on children’s happiness by the Children’s Society charity which quizzed more than 30,000 youngsters aged eight to 16. One in 10 children over the age of eight are unhappy, it concludes. Family had the biggest impact on children’s happiness, researchers found.

However, Sir Robin Wales warned of a ‘dangerous government move to redefine poverty’.

He said: “The happiness of our children matters and the report highlights the ways in which well-being is closely related to income and material goods. It seems obvious, yet as the legally binding target to end child poverty by 2020 edges closer and the goal moves further away - there is a dangerous Government move to redefine poverty away from income and to focus instead on well being and happiness. Such a change would cause lasting damage in Newham.

“Happiness is important – the Children’s Society are right to draw attention to that, but we mustn’t let the Government use that as a way to suggest that income poverty and the cuts they are inflicting do not matter.”

“Of course there’s more to life than money – but as the report shows, so much of what really matters for happiness depends on having it. If you can’t feed your family, heat your home or pay your rent it’s a recipe for unhappiness and reinforcing disadvantage. Money matters. Forcing down the value of out of work benefits will put additional strain on family relationships and make it harder to pay for the basics. Thirty seven per cent of children in Newham grow up in workless households; including child benefit in the Universal Credit cap will make it even harder for their parents to afford books or clothes that fit.”

He said Newham was one of only two English authorities to offer universal free school meals to primary school children, the equivalent of �500 extra income per child before tax.