Helping to reduce poverty and improve social justice


Poverty, as measured by a household’s income relative to the national average, is often a symptom of deeper, more complex problems. Many of these problems are passed on from one generation to the next.

For example, there are almost 300,000 households in the UK where none of the adults has ever worked, and 300,000 children have parents with serious drug problems. Children in families affected by these problems have reduced chances of success in their own lives.

We want to make a real and lasting difference, to help people change the course of their lives. To do this, we need to deal with the problems that cause people to end up living in poverty, rather than dealing with people’s incomes in isolation.


On 13 March 2012 we published ‘Social justice: transforming lives’. It explains the government’s plans for giving individuals and families facing multiple disadvantages the support and tools they need to turn their lives around.

We published the ‘Social justice outcomes framework’ on 31 October 2012. It explains what the government wants to achieve and how we will measure success.

On 24 April 2013 we published Social justice: transforming lives – one year on. This progress report looks at how social justice principles influence service delivery at national and local level, in government and across the private and voluntary sectors.

Our strategy includes action to:

  • help troubled families turn their lives around
  • improve mental health
  • reduce child poverty and make sure that children are properly supported so that they complete their education
  • make work pay, and help people to find and stay in work
  • help people recover and become independent if things have gone wrong
  • work with the voluntary, public and private sectors to deal more effectively with complex problems

Helping troubled families turn their lives around

The government is working with local authorities and their partners to help 120,000 troubled families in England turn their lives around by 2015 – our policy on helping troubled families turn their lives around explains this work in more detail.

In March 2013 we announced that 150 specialist Jobcentre Plus advisers will work with troubled families. The advisers will work with existing teams in councils to support troubled families and track their progress into work.

Improving mental health

The government’s mental health policy concentrates on outcomes - what actually happens to the health of the patient as a result of the treatment and care they receive.

Reducing child poverty

Helping children overcome poverty will make a huge difference not only to their lives but to the lives of their families, communities and to society as a whole.

The Child Poverty Act 2010 set income targets for 2020. The government published its national strategy for reducing child poverty on 5 April 2011. This explains how the targets will be met between 2011 and 2014.

In June 2012, the government published ‘Child poverty in the UK: The report on the 2010 target’. The report showed that the target to halve child poverty by 2010 was not met. The number of children living in poverty in 2010 to 2011 fell to 2.3 million, which was 600,000 short of the number required to meet the target. The report also announced a consultation on better measurement of child poverty. This consultation ran between 15 November 2012 and 15 February 2013.

The ‘Positive for youth’ report, published in December 2011, explains how the government is working with others to improve outcomes for young people.

The Home Office is providing £5 million in 2012 to 2013 to 91 local projects as part of the Positive Futures programme. The programme provides prevention and diversion activities for vulnerable young people. In 2010 to 2011 over 57,000 young people participated in the Positive Futures programme and more than 38,000 positive outcomes were recorded, such as improved self esteem, employment and qualifications.

Improving social mobility

The government wants to create a socially mobile society so that no one is stopped from achieving their potential.

Making work pay

Work for those who can is the most sustainable route out of poverty.

Increasing the participation of 16 to 24 year olds in learning and employment not only makes a lasting difference to their individual lives, but is central to the government’s ambitions to improve social mobility and stimulate economic growth.

We are combining in- and out-of-work benefits within the new Universal Credit. This will make the transition from benefits to work significantly easier. Universal Credit will dramatically simplify the process of applying for different benefits as people move in and out of work or between jobs, which will eliminate the insecurity caused by gaps in income. Because the system will be simpler, it will also be much easier for people to understand how much better off they would be if they were to move into work.

Helping people recover from drugs problems and become independent if things have gone wrong

The government intends to restrict the supply of illicit drugs, introduce a system of temporary bans on so called ‘legal highs’ and to promote recovery of drug users within their communities. Our drugs policy sets out how we will do this.

The ministerial working group on homelessness and ending rough sleeping brings together 8 government departments to deal with the complex causes of homelessness – not only housing, but just as importantly health, work and training.

The government outlined its proposals for how to better ensure offenders pay for their crimes and, just as importantly, don’t go on to commit any more in their response to the ‘Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders consultation’ in July 2011. For more information, see our policy on reducing reoffending.

Working with the voluntary, public and private sectors to achieve change

We recognise that the most effective solutions will often be managed locally. The government is working with local authorities and other public sector organisations to help them share information securely. This will help to improve services by offering guidance and examples of best practice.

The government will encourage:

  • service providers to be innovative by specifying outcomes and paying for effective results
  • local agencies, services and service users to work together on services that take local needs into account through projects like Community Budgets
  • the social investment market and philanthropy to expand


In the coalition agreement we said we will maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020.The government believes that the focus on income over recent decades has ignored the root causes of poverty, and in doing so has allowed social problems to deepen and become entrenched.

The government’s new approach to reducing poverty in all its forms is not about income poverty alone. ‘Social justice: transforming lives’ explains the government’s plans for giving individuals and families facing multiple disadvantages the support and tools they need to turn their lives around.

Welfare reform communications toolkit

Our welfare reform communications toolkit helps explain how DWP is changing the welfare system. It covers:

  • what we are changing
  • why we are making the changes
  • when we are making the changes

Who we’ve consulted

We published a consultation about child poverty on 27 February 2014. We are seeking views on a draft child poverty strategy, which sets out what action the government will take from 2014 to 2017 to reduce child poverty.

We launched the ‘Consultation on measuring child poverty’ on 15 November 2012. We sought views on changing the way we measure child poverty to make sure we can get accurate data about how many children in the UK are affected. We believe that, in addition to median income, we need to take other elements into account, such as housing and health. The consultation ran until 15 February 2013.

Who we’re working with

Social justice requires new and imaginative approaches to designing and funding services, and close partnership between the private, public and charitable sectors. We are therefore working with:

  • national and local government
  • the voluntary and community sector
  • mutuals and private companies
  • investors and philanthropists

Share your examples with us

We’ve published a series of case studies and invited organisations to tell us about other examples of social justice in action.

If you have a story you’d like to share or if you want to be involved, please email us at dwp.socialjustice@dwp.gsi.gov.uk.

@socjusticegov – follow DWP Social Justice on Twitter.

Multi-Agency Information Sharing Hub (MASH) in Leicestershire

Find out how the Multi-Agency Information Sharing Hub (MASH) in Leicestershire is making it easier for people working with families to share information and coordinate their activities.

OnePlusOne – Getting it right for children

‘Getting it right for children’ is an innovative online programme from The Parent Connection, specifically designed by OnePlusOne to deal with potential problems children face when their parents separate. They have developed this evidence-based resource to help people break cycles of negative behaviour and do things differently.

Create – creating jobs and hope

Create’s innovative work-based mentoring programme is creating jobs and hope for those who need it most. Read Adi’s story – how he went from being a ‘whizz’ at school to a life of drugs and prison and how Create is helping him feel alive again.

ESC – empowering prisoners to change lives

Find out how Belfast film company ESC empowers prisoners to turn their back on crime, transform their lives and become active citizens.

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