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Poverty and welfare models

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Sociologists have defined poverty in two different ways, the first being absolute poverty and the second being relative poverty. Seebohm Rowntree, a pioneering researcher of poverty, devised the absolute definition of poverty in the early 19th century in England. In the 1890s, he conducted a scientific survey to discover the real extent of poverty in Britain. Part of this survey involved constructing a clear definition that distinguished the poor from the non-poor. The definition was based on deciding what resources were needed for a person to be able to live healthily and work efficiently. The 'poverty line' was the amount needed to cover these three costs- 1) The cost of a very basic diet. 2) How much it would cost to purchase a minimum amount of clothing of minimum quality. 3) Cost of rent for a basic level of housing. Rowntrees scale was an absolute measure of poverty because it defined the absolute minimum a person needed to survive, 'the basic conditions that must be met in order to sustain a physically healthy lifestyle', (Giddens, 5th edition, 2006. p341). The relative definition of poverty, stresses not so much the necessities, but exclusion from the normal patterns of life in society, due to lack of income. This approach was designed in its fullest by the famous poverty researcher Peter Townsend in his 1979 study 'Poverty in the UK.' ...read more.


One example of a dependency based explanation is the 'underclass' approach which was developed by an American writer named Charles Murray who states- o 'The underclass does not refer to a degree of poverty, but to a type of poverty. It is not a new concept... these poor didn't lack money. They were defined by their behaviour. Their homes were littered and unkempt. The men in the family were unable to hold down a job for more than a few weeks at a time. Drunkenness was common. The children grew up ill-schooled and ill-behaved and contributed a disproportionate share of the local juvenile delinquents.' (C.Murray.1990. P.1) Murray believed that the underclass, that survive on benefits, were lazy and had no desire to work. I do personally believe that an underclass exists today, but that it makes up only a small minority of the poor. I have lived on council estates and know from first hand account that these families exist. They do not work and depend solely on government benefits. They worked illegally for cash and also were involved in crime, drugs, illegitimacy, and drunkenness. I believe the majority of unemployed would like to go back to work and help themselves out of poverty but are held back by economic and political systems. Kirby (2000) states 'Heath (1992) collected data on those defined as being the underclass and found no evidence to support the idea that they held distinct cultural values. ...read more.


4) Educational Maintenance Allowance (E.M.A) - Support for poor families to encourage children to stay in full time education. 5) Working Families Tax Credit / Child Tax Credit - introduced to make employment more attractive than benefits, especially for lone parents. Cash support for families with low paid jobs. Also helped with nursery costs and health care. The Third Way basically sees the welfare system as good but believes it is inefficient and too expensive to maintain. Even though the proposals made by the Third Way to change the welfare system are only extensions of the social democrats values, the social democrats saw benefits as a right, where as Labour believe people must accept work or training, or lose the their rights to benefits. Another criticism of the Third Way is that the minimum wage is simply too low. According to the Department of Works and Pensions, between 1996 and 2002 the number of people of working age who are neither in work nor looking for it but who report that they would like to work has remained stable at 2.5 million. It seems that although the Labour government has taken a different approach to tackling poverty, it has not been a great success. According to Moore (2002) 'less than 1 in 10 single mothers contacted had gone on to find a job' after taking part in the New Deal for Lone Parents scheme. ?? ?? ?? ?? Poverty and welfare models ...read more.

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