The RSS has helped the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) formulate a new poverty metric (PDF) which takes into account factors such as assets and 'inescapable costs' that can affect people's spending power. The new data shows who is poor now and how that has changed over time, to provide a clear focus for policy makers.
The SMC, an independent non-partisan commission founded in 2016 by Baroness Stroud, brought together poverty specialists with data/analytical experts to develop a new approach to measuring poverty. RSS executive director, Hetan Shah, was one of the commissioners along with representatives from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The new metric reflects more accurately the realities and experiences of living in poverty than previous measures. As well as looking at incomes, the new metric accounts for a range of 'inescapable costs' that reduce people’s spending power, and the positive impact of people’s liquid assets on alleviating immediate poverty. Inescapable costs include rent or mortgage payments, childcare and the extra costs associated with disability. Liquid assets include savings, stocks and shares.
The SMC report reveals that total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million - more than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population (7.7 million) is in persistent poverty.
'Writing in the newspaper CityAM about the new measure, Hetan Shah said: 'The best policies are rooted in the soundest possible statistics. After the Second World War, a report from William Beveridge – a former president of the Royal Statistical Society – was implemented on how to deal with the five giant evils of his time and laid the foundation for the welfare state. Around 75 years on, we hope the work of the Social Metrics Commission will give us the statistics to tackle one of the great evils of our time – poverty.'