Yesterday the National Centre for Social Research published the British Social Attitudes survey for 2011. One section is about child poverty. 43% of people agree with the statement that there is some child poverty in Britain and 36% think there is quite a lot. That's 79%, a clear majority agreeing that child poverty exists in Britian today. I find that encouraging beacuse we had assumed that most people thought child poverty was something that existed in third world countries, not in the UK. Furthermore the survey found 51% think that child poverty will increase in Britain during the next decade.
The survey also asked people about the causes of child poverty. 75% thought the reason is due to drug and alcohol problems of parents; 63% think it is that parents do not want to work; 56% blame family breakdown; 51% put it down to lack of parents education; and 50% think the cause is long term unemployment. Undoubtedly these are all possible difficulties that families may experience but in the experience of Children North East and the academics who spoke at our conference overwhelmingly child poverty is a 'structural' problem caused by there not being enough well-paid jobs to go round.
82% of people surveyed consider it very important to reduce child poverty in Britain while 16% think it is quite important, that is pretty much everyone. However 79% think central government should be responsible for reducing child poverty but 46% say responsibility for ending child poverty rests with parents and 32% say relatives should be responsible.
Questions about child poverty have been asked in the surveysince 1986. Much was made in the press yesterday that this year's survey showed a hardening of attitudes towards the poor. In fact successive surveys show that attitudes are not consistently moving in one or other direction. There is speculation in the survey report that attitudes to poverty may vary according to the prevailing economic circumstances. When times are hard, people think that the poorer members of society are likely to be even more worse off.