Child poverty stats are not collected for their own sake David Cameron

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The Guardian has reported that:

David Cameron is looking to revive plans to change the way that child poverty is measured, in advance of figures that are expected to show it has increased for the first time in a decade.

There is something troubling about this. Of course there is the very obvious fear that political manipulation is going on, bit it's more significant than that. What such a plan reveals is the belief that the idea can be sold that the statistic is in itself significant and an absolute measure and that changing it is value free.

Of course this is not an absolute measure. It is, like all stats, subjective. It cannot be argued otherwise. If someone wants to draw the line other than that at 60% then an argument could be made, I am sure. But that's not the point. The statistic is not collected out of curiosity, or to embarrass anyone (at least, per se). The statistic exists to monitor the scale of a perceived problem and to measure progress in tackling it over time. Change the statistical base and you do three things.

First you seek to change the perception of the problem.

Second, you seek to distort measurement over time by creating a discontinuity so that progress cannot be gauged.

Third, you seek to create a changed response.

The last is what's worrying here. I am not saying stats should not be changed. They can be and are improved and there's no harm in that. But if they are to remain useful to appraise the same problem that is still perceived to exist this change has to ensure that there is no changed response as a result. If the change in response is instead the motive - as I fear is the case here - then that has to be exposed.

The challenges of bringing up children in poverty is beyond David Cameron's imagination . I admit that to fair degree it is beyond mine. But honest candour about this should be matched with honest candour that the situation is real and the right response is not to define it away but to improve the outcomes for all affected. I am not at all sure that David Cameron is doing that. That's why I do not trust this move.