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Minister: Extra cash worse for poor

Giving poor people more money can actually make their lives worse, Iain Duncan Smith has insisted.

The Work and Pensions Secretary hit out at the former Labour government for becoming "fixated" on increasing income levels through benefits and tax credits.

Pushing people into employment is the "best route" for bringing them out of poverty, he added.

The comments came as Mr Duncan Smith delivered the Keith Joseph Memorial Lecture on Tuesday night.

He conceded that Conservatives had largely "ignored" the issue of child poverty over the last 13 years. "We seem to have felt uncomfortable discussing poverty, certainly in the context of society at home. Such reluctance has left the issue in the hands of the Left," he said.

"The result of leaving the field undisputed is that the last 13 years has seen a narrow interpretation of what poverty is and how to solve it. Instead of looking at why people have to live in poverty, the political classes have become damagingly fixated by income levels alone.

"By inflating incomes through benefits and tax credits, the previous Government hailed early watershed victories claiming significant numbers of people had been 'lifted' out of poverty, by virtue of moving them above the poverty line.

"So, this narrative goes, a family living in poverty one day would wake up free from it the next, simply by a money transfer. Yet any right minded person must know that it needs more than that to set someone free. Something else in their lives needs to change.

"When you measure the effect on real life outcomes, the extra money may actually have made things worse. You have failed to tackle the root cause of the problem - the damaging addiction. Unless something changes in the adult's life, nothing changes for the child."

Mr Duncan Smith said that the "complex and chaotic" welfare system had too often "worked against the grain of human nature". "Instead of helping to support positive choices, it has become a mechanism to incentivise destructive attitudes and condition dysfunctional behaviour," he added.

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