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MP to urge poverty policy rethink

Attempts to tackle poverty should focus more on children's "life chances" rather than purely on their household income, Government adviser Frank Field is set to urge.

The Labour MP, who was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to review poverty for the coalition, has set out plans for new Life Chances Indicators to replace financial measurements.

The move is intended to shift the focus away from raising poor families' incomes above what Mr Field calls an "arbitrary" level where they are no longer officially in poverty.

He argues that some money would be better spent identifying those children who are behind their peers even by the time they start school aged five.

Mr Field, who was welfare reform minister under Tony Blair, says gaps in attainment at that age generally remain throughout the school cycle.

He said Labour's aim to abolish child poverty was "laudable", but the policy of "income transfers on a massive scale" did not work.

"An anomaly of an economic recession is that the poverty figures can appear to improve, as median income falls, however the jury is no longer 'out' on the value of the current measures," he said.

"The measures as they stand promote a single policy of pushing household income above an arbitrary line, with no regard to whether it matters where on the income spectrum households sit.

"In 2010, I advocated a new measure of poverty running alongside the financial measures.

"The Life Chances Indicators could measure the progress the country is making against the only strategy we can employ to eradicate poverty in Britain - by radically up-skilling the workforce."

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