Listening to people talk about their experience of poverty, it is clear that poverty is complex and multi-dimensional. Poverty is more than simply a lack of income. It is the stress caused by the inability to make ends meet, social isolation, and the fatalism and lack of time that prevent political engagement. It is the associated material deprivation, poor housing and neighbourhood. Poverty is a product of multiple causes and can have multifarious, interconnected short- and long-term negative consequences that make life difficult to cope with. Such complexity is easily overlooked and frustrates the best intentions of policymakers who are often tempted to tackle single causes and specific outcomes.
Coping with Complexity identifies fundamental problems with a government strategy that has failed to confront the various interlinked causes and consequences of poverty. A tendency to tackle single causes and specific outcomes has generated poorly targeted and ineffectual policies, which over-emphasise employment as the principal antidote to poverty.