In today's Britain, people are impoverished by weak connections with, and minimal support from, family and friends. Iain Duncan Smith, the secretary of state for work and pensions, will announce this week new indicators to measure child poverty . Poor social networks should be included as a contributor to and signal of poverty.Wha..?
Lamentably, social isolation seems to be on the increase. Single-person households have doubled over the past half-century. Time-use surveys indicate that people are spending more time working and looking after their own children than some decades ago, squeezing time for community and recreational activity.Presumably, they are only concerned about government-approved activities?
When loneliness is combined with material deprivation, the result is toxic. A cycle of worklessness, indebtedness and depression is so much harder to escape. Policymakers need to focus resource and attention on these people.How are you going to identify them, then?
Professionals such as health visitors need to focus efforts not only on social groups traditionally most likely to be associated with social exclusion – those on low income, teenage mothers – but also those identified as having poor social networks.I just despair... WAIT! Don't send anyone round!
Duncan Smith is right to seek a richer understanding of poverty and its causes. Social isolation and loneliness are a growing scourge that should be understood as a major factor contributing to impoverishment in modern Britain. To support people in poverty, to help them escape it, policy is needed to enable them to foster stronger and more diverse social networks.Is there no end to the personal details in which the government seeks to meddle?