by RAY FLEMING
THE proximity of Father Christmas's visit to our homes with gifts is perhaps a good moment to consider what should be a child's reasonable expectation at this time of year. In Britain the government has just come up with a new way of defining child poverty. In the past a family was said to be “poor” if it did not have enough money to afford adequate food and shelter, but the new measure will take into account the “material deprivation” that children suffer if they are not able to participate in the same social activities as their friends. A list of things a child should be able to experience in order to escape the new definition of poverty includes: a family holiday away from home at least once a year; swimming at least once a month; a hobby or leisure activity; friends around for tea or a snack once a fortnight; a seperate bedroom for every child of different sex over ten; leisure equipment; celebrations on birthdays. THE Child Poverty Action Group welcomed the new approach, saying: “How we measure poverty has to be on a par with what we now expect for our children in the fourth richest country in the world.” At the risk of sounding old-fashioned and out-of-touch, I will recall a family I knew when I was young in what was then probably the second richest country in the world. At Christmas the parents and their six children sat in a circle: father gave mother a half-crown piece as his gift; she passed it the eldest child who passed it on to his sister...and so on until it returned to the father. They had no higher expectations and did not suffer from “material deprivation”.