Don’t Blatter the Young and the Poor

Paul Morrish | 25.06.15

I’m not aware if 'to Blatter' has become a verb yet. I suspect it will soon – 'To wilfully ignore the evidence, to turn a blind eye, to believe that night is day.'

I mention this in relation to two recent bits of news. The papers reported earlier this week that the Government was considering reviewing the ways in which child poverty is both measured and understood – a discussion that took place days before today’s announcement that 1 in 6 children (2.3m) are growing up in relative poverty.

The second was the news that nearly 50,000 families were being housed in temporary accommodation as of the end of March 2015, with 2,570 families living in B&Bs, an increase of 35% since last year and a staggering 308% rise on the same date in 2010. “Among those families” went on the report “there are 93,320 children.”

There’s no harm in reviewing the way that official statistics report on any area of life. I just doubt that anyone, for one moment, thinks that such a review would lead to the Government saying they’d got it wrong and there were more children living in poverty, not fewer; more children living in temporary accommodation, not fewer.

The figures, we could say, were at risk of being ‘blattered’ – wilfully changed or distorted to affect our understanding of the truth, or of reality.

This matters, and not simply because we are statistical pedants. Numbers, and our ability to rely on them, base our decision-making on them, matter enormously. But they matter all the more when they refer not to widgets, but to people. Each digit is a person, just like us, or in this case, just like our children.

2,300,000 children living in relative poverty. 93,320 individual children living in temporary accommodation. In March 2015. In the fourth richest country in the world.

Unravelling that statement you can begin to see the impact that this reality has on children’s friendships, their schooling, their confidence and self-esteem, their well-being. You can imagine the stress that temporary accommodation will be putting on parents – some of whom will be single. Is this likely to make for calm evenings and bedtimes? A sit-down supper around the dining table? Supper at all?

The accommodation may be temporary, although temporary can be a very long time. Relative poverty and the impact this has can be long-lasting, if not life-long.

Many of the projects that LandAid supports work to alleviate and reverse the effects of poverty and homelessness in the lives of children and young people, and often in the most surprising, creative, but simple ways imaginable.

An upward trend on the graph is not justification to change the way child poverty stats are gathered. Instead let's understand the problem, engage and work to solve it. Changing the way data is recorded runs the risk of allowing thousands of young people to be quietly forgotten and ignored. On top of everything else these young people are having to cope with, let's not allow them and their stories to be ‘blattered’.