Monday 30 November 2009

The Solidarity Society

The Solidarity Society, the final report of our major two year research project into fighting inequality and poverty, will be published on 10th December.

The report by Tim Horton and James Gregory seeks to make a significant contribution to current debates about how to reduce poverty. It assesses contemporary, historic and international evidence to draw lessons for effective poverty prevention strategies, drawing on our public attitudes research to address how to mobilise resources and public support to reduce poverty and inequality.

Today's Independent carries a preview of some of the main themes of the report.

We could be at a tipping point that sends Britain back towards Victorian levels of inequality and social segregation, and makes the solidarity which could challenge that social segregation ever more difficult to recover." He added: "Inequality in Britain today, on some measures, is at its highest since the early 1960s. And, despite falls in poverty over the last decade, progress is getting harder.

"Significant cuts in welfare spending would push poverty and inequality even higher. And taking the middle class out of the welfare state would set Britain on a path to a set of 'sink services' for the poorest, with a deeply segregating effect on society. History teaches us that nothing would be worse for the long-term interests of the poorest than taking the middle classes out of the services that the most vulnerable rely on."

(The report, rather than the headline, accurately captures that the concern is with avoiding a pathway towards "Victorian levels of inequality and social segregation"; the headline referring to Victorian levels of poverty rather overstates the point).

The newspaper also carries an editorial on emerging debate about poverty between left and right.

The conclusions will be uncomfortable for the Government in that they track a striking decline in the sense of social solidarity in Britain, even as their figures show inequality on the increase again. But they should also be uncomfortable for Mr Cameron and his Conservatives in that they call into question some of their most treasured tenets.

The research project, supported by the Webb Memorial Trust, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 1909 Poor Law Minority Report, which first called for the abolition of the workhouse and the creation of the modern welfare state.

We will have more on the report as we approach the publication and launch event next week.

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