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A more equal society?

A more equal society?: New Labour, poverty, inequality and exclusion

John Hills
Kitty Stewart
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  • Book Info
    A more equal society?
    Book Description:

    This major new book provides, for the first time, a detailed evaluation of policies on poverty and social exclusion since 1997, and their effects. Bringing together leading experts in the field, it considers the challenges the government has faced, the policies chosen and the targets set in order to assess results. Drawing on research from the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, and on external evaluations, the book asks how children, older people, poor neighbourhoods, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups have fared under New Labour and seeks to assess the government both on its own terms - in meeting its own targets - and according to alternative views of social exclusion.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-865-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. v-x)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    John Hills and Kitty Stewart
  5. Notes on contributors
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    Kitty Stewart and John Hills

    The Labour government that took office in 1997 inherited levels of poverty and inequality unprecedented in post-war history. More than one in four UK children lived in relative poverty, compared to one in eight when Labour had left office in 1979 (DWP,2004a). Poverty among pensioners stood at 21%¹. Income inequality had widened sharply: in 1979 the post-tax income of the top tenth of the income distribution was about five times that of the bottom tenth; by the mid-1990s that ratio had doubled (Hills, 2004a, Table 2.5).

    In opposition, the new government had been careful to avoid major commitments to addressing...

  7. Part One: Aspects of exclusion

    • TWO Employment: tackling poverty through ‘work for those who can’
      (pp. 23-46)
      Abigail McKnight

      Labour’s strong focus on employment is rooted firmly at the historical heart of the party. Full employment is still clearly an aspiration. However, New Labour’s approach to employment policy represents a departure from previous Labour governments: both the approach to achieving full employment and arguably the motivation have changed. After the high levels of unemployment in the 1980s and early 1990s recessions, Labour was cautious about pledging a commitment to full employment. However, shortly after Labour came to power, a new definition was put forward. In a speech launching his first pre-budget report in November 1997, Chancellor Gordon Brown stated...

    • THREE Education, education, education ... : an assessment of Labour’s success in tackling education inequalities
      (pp. 47-68)
      Abigail McKnight, Howard Glennerster and Ruth Lupton

      Labour signalled that education was a policy priority well before the 1997 General Election. In his now famous Labour Party Conference speech in 1996, Tony Blair announced that the three highest priorities in government would be ‘Education, education, education’. In December 1996, Blair outlined Labour Party thinking on education policy; themes, which, as we shall see, have continued to be important since 1997:

      I believe there is the chance to forge a new consensus on education policy. It will be practical not ideological. And it will put behind us the political and ideological debates that have dominated the last thirty...

    • FOUR Tackling health inequalities
      (pp. 69-92)
      Franco Sassi

      Much of the evidence on the relationship between income and health seems to point to a non-linear relationship, at least at the individual level, indicating that the association is much stronger when income is low (Deaton, 2003). Whether it is absolute income, or poverty, that matters, rather than relative income, or rank, a non-linear relationship with health indicates that reducing income inequality will improve overall health, as the health gain enjoyed by the worse off outweighs the deterioration suffered by the better off. Moreover, when a country reaches the level of wealth at which average income has negligible effects on...

    • FIVE Social and political participation and inclusion
      (pp. 93-116)
      Liz Richardson

      The aim of this chapter is to investigate trends in political and social participation since 1997 and to assess the impact of New Labour’s attempts to increase the quantity and quality of citizen participation. We look both at formal ways of participating in political decision making processes – in this case, voting – and at the more informal ways people influence decisions that affect the nature, level and quality of public services they receive. We also look at social participation; that is, people’s involvement in activities of community or social benefit, like volunteering and community organising.

      Social and political participation is important...

  8. Part Two: Groups at risk

    • SIX Disadvantaged by where you live? New Labour and neighbourhood renewal
      (pp. 119-142)
      Ruth Lupton and Anne Power

      This chapter is about New Labour’s efforts to reverse the long-running negative impact on urban conditions of concentrated poverty within deprived areas and to break the connection between poor social and physical conditions. It comprises three parts:

      1. the situation New Labour inherited and the development of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal;

      2. the measurable results of the strategy; and

      3. the relationship between wider urban, regional and housing policies and the more focused neighbourhood renewal agenda.

      We conclude by assessing the likelihood of future progress.

      The multiple problems of poor neighbourhoods are nothing new and have been the...

    • SEVEN Towards an equal start? Addressing childhood poverty and deprivation
      (pp. 143-166)
      Kitty Stewart

      The number of children living in relative poverty in the UK increased dramatically over the two decades prior to 1997. As Table 7.1 shows, between one in three and one in four children lived in households with less than 60% of average income when Labour came to power, depending on whether income is measured before or after housing costs (BHC or AHC)¹. This represented a much sharper rise in poverty among children than among the rest of the population. By the mid-1990s, child poverty in the UK was higher than in much of the rest of the industrialised world: UNICEF...

    • EIGHT A secure retirement for all? Older people and New Labour
      (pp. 167-188)
      Maria Evandrou and Jane Falkingham

      Labour’s 1979 Election Manifesto reiterated the party’s long-standing objective of achieving a state pension of one third adult average earnings for single people and half average earnings for couples. However, in 1981 the Conservative government broke the link between pensions and earnings, and the basic state pension (BSP) became indexed to prices. Restoring the link to earnings became a central plank of Labour policy in opposition. Both the 1987 and 1992 Manifestos promised to increase the pension by an extra £5.00 per week for a single person and £8.00 per week for a married couple as a first step. The...

    • NINE Ethnic inequalities under New Labour: progress or entrenchment?
      (pp. 189-208)
      Coretta Phillips

      The New Labour party elected to government in 1997 came to power inheriting a legacy of ethnic inequalities in housing, education, employment, health and criminal justice outcomes. The early research evidence from the First Survey of Ethnic Minorities carried out in the mid-1960s documented racialised disadvantage and discrimination in the lives of all minority ethnic groups, most of whom had arrived from Britain’s colonial territories to fill job vacancies in the post-war period (Daniel, 1968). Since the mid-1970s, however, while the broad pattern of ethnic inequalities has persisted, there has also been considerable differentiation, with those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi...

    • TEN Selective inclusion: asylum seekers and other marginalised groups
      (pp. 209-228)
      Tania Burchardt

      Establishing the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) in 1997 as part of the Cabinet Office was an early initiative of the Labour government. The brief of the SEU fell into two parts: neighbourhood renewal (considered in Chapter Six of this volume); and countering the exclusion of marginalised groups (considered in this chapter). Up to early 2004, the groups about whom the SEU has produced reports have been as follows:

      pupils excluded from school or truanting (published in 1998);

      rough sleepers (1998);

      teenage parents (1999);

      16- to 18-year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET) (1999);

      young runaways (2002);

      ex-prisoners (2002); and...

  9. Part Three: Overall impact

    • ELEVEN Inequality and poverty under New Labour
      (pp. 231-250)
      Tom Sefton and Holly Sutherland

      One of the legacies of the Thatcher years was the marked shift towards greater inequality. While average incomes grew rapidly during the 1980s, the benefits were spread very unevenly. Between 1979 and 1996/97, the median income of the richest 10% increased by over 60% in real terms, but that of the poorest 10% rose by just 11% (or fell by 13% if incomes are measured after housing costs). Although inequality did stop rising during the recession of the early 1990s, it started to rise again in the mid-1990s. When Labour came to power in 1997, the distribution of incomes in...

    • TWELVE That’s the way the money goes: expenditure patterns as real incomes rise for the poorest families with children
      (pp. 251-276)
      Paul Gregg, Jane Waldfogel and Elizabeth Washbrook

      As prior chapters of this volume have documented, there has been a raft of new initiatives in UK labour market and welfare policies (see Chapters Two, Three and Seven in this volume), many of which will have had a particular bearing on mothers’ labour market status and child poverty. These include the National Minimum Wage (NMW), Child and Working Families Tax Credits, National Childcare Strategy, improved maternity and family leave provision and New Deals for Lone Parents and Partners of the Unemployed. There have also been benefit increases for families with children (through increases in Child Benefit and Income Support)....

    • THIRTEEN Bringing up families in poor neighbourhoods under New Labour
      (pp. 277-296)
      Anne Power and Helen Willmot

      For five years, we have been tracking the lives of 200 families in four of the most disadvantaged urban areas in the country; two in East London (West City and East Docks) and two in Yorkshire (Kirkside East and The Valley)¹. We visit the same families every year and record their changing views and experiences about bringing up their children in difficult and unpopular neighbourhoods. We almost invariably speak with mothers, only very occasionally with partners or other relatives.

      The four areas were chosen from the 12 representative deprived areas that we are studying more broadly in an attempt to...

    • FOURTEEN Changes in poverty and inequality in the UK in international context
      (pp. 297-322)
      Kitty Stewart

      The UK’s concern about levels of poverty and social exclusion in recent years is not unique. The Lisbon Summit of the European Council (23-24 March 2000) placed poverty and social exclusion at centre stage for EU countries, asking member states to take steps to “make a decisive impact on the eradication of poverty” (Lisbon Summit Conclusions, para 32). Countries have had to publish National Action Plans for Social Inclusion and a set of target indicators are now published: for the first time, Europe has a scorecard for poverty, inequality and exclusion alongside those for inflation and interest rates.

      Prior to...

  10. Part Four: Conclusion

    • FIFTEEN A tide turned but mountains yet to climb?
      (pp. 325-346)
      John Hills and Kitty Stewart

      In this chapter, we put evidence from earlier chapters within a common framework, and give an overview of what this shows about the impact of policies towards poverty, inequality and social exclusion under New Labour.

      A first danger is timing. If the 1950s were still “too early to tell” the impact of the French Revolution according to Zhou Enlai, 2004 is far too early fully to assess policies that are still being implemented. The problem is not just of present preoccupations, but also of data. Statistics follow events with a lag. While there has been great improvement in the speed...

  11. References
    (pp. 347-374)
  12. Index
    (pp. 375-391)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 392-392)