For this once, let’s hear it for the Legatum Institute

The Social Metrics Commission is a motley crew of people and is an Independent Commission “formed and led by the Legatum Institute’s CEO Baroness Stroud“. Nobody knows who truly funds the Legatum Institute so their efforts are usually rather suspect.

Still, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is stated as giving them help.

Even this Legatum Insitute led Commission finds that there are 14.2 million people in poverty in the UK (2016/17), which is likely to equate at more than 20% of the current population – and it shows that the majority of these are with two parents and children. Isn’t that supposed to be the most desirable family unit?

Yet somehow Conservative government manages to organise society so that they are poor. Not the only ones, but just the most likely. And that conclusion is funded by an inscrutably financed, right leaning think-tank.

I pause to be amazed.

And there’s more. Our favourite right wing blog ‘Capx’ has an article by a Legatum member and also of The Social Metrics Commission, Dr Stephen BrienThe untold story about disability and poverty” which states:

This link between disability and poverty is one of the key findings from a two-and-a-half-year analysis of poverty in the UK…..For the first time, this new metric accounts for the negative impact on people’s available resources of inescapable costs such as obligatory debt repayments, childcare costs and the real experience of disability; and includes the positive benefits of access to liquid assets such as savings, to supplement people’s income and alleviate immediate poverty…..

Families with a disabled person tend to have both lower earnings and higher costs than comparable families without a disabled person. Whilst many people with disabilities enjoy full employment and build extraordinarily impactful lives, many disabled people can’t work full-time and often work part-time, sometimes from home on a flexible basis, or cannot work at all…..

Full-time work is a route out of poverty, but when a person’s ability to work is limited by a disability, or they are caring for a disabled person, this pathway out of poverty gets blocked, and they can end up trapped.

Now I’d quarrel with the fact that people in full-time work is a route out of poverty as otherwise far less employed people would be poor, but the idea that the “inescapable costs” should be taken into account is surely ground breaking. Many of the members of this Social Metrics Commission were involved in the formulation of Universal Credit, which I suppose we must remind ourselves, was not supposed to have been implemented as, in fact, it has. Its chief advocate, Iain Duncan Smith, eventually resigned.

The piece concludes:

If we don’t understand who is in poverty and why, then we cannot deliver policy that helps lift people out of poverty. There is currently no official measurement of poverty for the UK and no agreed targets to reduce poverty.

It is indeed shameful that our government has no official measurement of poverty and nor any proper targets to reduce it.

We want to put poverty at the heart of government policy-making and ensure that the decisions are made with the long-term interest of those in poverty. For too long it has been possible to debate the measurement of poverty, now with this new measurement of poverty, the commission calls on people and organisations across, and outside of, the political spectrum to support it, so that we can all put our energy into creating the policies and solutions that build pathways out of poverty.

I, personally, have a circumspect view towards almost all the links I have posted, but if they are right, it seems to me we must endorse their conclusions, whoever they are.

Otherwise we shall be no better than the state of Israel, which thinks Wagner’s music can never be beautiful.


  1. Ivan Horrocks -

    I was going to pen something on this report, but you’ve beaten me to it and in so doing taken up most of the points I’d have raised. As you say, in normal circumstances pretty much anything that comes from Legatum is suspect, not least because of their opaque funding (and the fact that this usually signals the “think tank” in question is funded to only “think” in a rightwing direction). But I noticed from the story in The Guardian that people from the Rowntree Foundation were also involved, and as they’re no mugs when it comes to this topic thought it warranted attention, not least because they detail the scale of poverty – which for a supposedly wealthy country is truly shocking (and onlhy set to get worse) they are actually trying to put the subject front and centre of government policy making. They should be applauded for that even if we might have issues with some aspects of their methodology and report.

  2. Graham -

    Danny Dorling’s latest book has much to say about poverty. Ch 6.3 asks “Why are the old dying before their time?” The government answer was influenza. But, he points out, most of the early deaths occurred after the coalition government took office in 2010. Could there be a connection between austerity cuts and premature death? I think we know the answer.

    (Danny Dorling, “Peak Inequality”)

  3. Peter May -

    It’s come to a pretty pass when our government is so right wing and incompetent that even the Legatum Institute is trying to indicate the error of its ways.

  4. Donald Liverpool -

    Page 64 of the report shows that the Commissioners have just made the threshold up based on their feelings and judgement.

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