Poverty comes in many varieties, as do explanations as to its causes and effects on the people who are experiencing it. Poverty in the third world for example, can be a matter of life and death, and is experienced in a very different way from poverty in the developed world. Even in the developed world, within the relatively narrow confines of the European Community there is great controversy over the nature of poverty, its measurement and how, (or even if) it should be eradicated.

One of the most recent developments in this context has been the move from defining poverty in terms of the lack of material resources to the concept of social exclusion, which focuses on the issue of social rights. (Littlewood, 1999:7) While some see this as new and better way of understanding the problem of disadvantaged groups, others claim it is simply poverty, in yet another guise.In the British context the first studies of poverty were measured in absolute terms based on the minimum resources required for survival, which can be applied to all societies. Seebohm Rowntree first identified poverty in this sense in the United Kingdom, in his famous studies of poverty in York in 1901. Rowntree calculated the minimum weekly sum of money necessary to maintain subsistence and anyone living below this level was considered to be in poverty.

In further studies, (1941 and 1951), Rowntree used a similar method to define poverty but his budget standards were based upon more relative definitions of poverty, that is, he included allowances for items other than those necessary for survival. (Haralambos, 2000:293)Another famous study of poverty carried out by Peter Townsend in Britain in the late 1970's also used a budget standard approach. However, in contrast with the earlier studies, Townsend emphasised that poverty should be measured in relative terms, that is, in relation to the standards expected in a given society at a given time. Anyone living below this standard is considered to be living in poverty in comparison to those around them. (Levitas, 1996:7)'Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved, in the societies to which they belong.

They are, in effect, excluded from ordinary living patterns, customs and activities." (Townsend, 1979:31)Like Rowntree, Townsend sees poverty as being attributed to a lack of material resources and the poor are those who are materially disadvantaged. In contrast with Rowntree, his approach is multidimensional in that deprivation, due to lack of material resources can arise from a number of factors and can have a profound affect in many other aspects of a persons life such as diet, clothing, health, education and family activities. While others may be unable to participate fully in the customary activities of their society due to factors such as ill health, ethnicity or age, it is only when their difficulties arise from the lack of material resources that they can be categorised as poor. (Whelan in Room, 1995:30)It was these views of poverty, in terms of material disadvantage, which dominated research and the measurement of disadvantaged groups in the United Kingdom until the last decade of the twentieth century, when the term social exclusion became predominant. Like the term poverty however, social exclusion is difficult to define and means different things to different people.

'By all accounts, defining exclusion is not an easy task...The expression is so evocative, ambiguous, multidimensional and elastic that it can be defined in many different ways' (Silver, in Littlewood, 1999:4)In his account of Poverty and Social Exclusion, Graham Roomsuggests that the concept of poverty, as used in political discourse, is essentially different from the concept of social exclusion.

(Room, 1995:5) He claims that each are derived from two totally distinct intellectual traditions, are based on different theoretical perspectives on the way in which societies ' function or operate and focus on different issues of deprivation.'The notion of poverty is primarily focussed upon distributional issues: the lack of resources at the disposal of an individual or a household. In contrast notions such as social exclusion focus primarily on relational issues, in other words, inadequate social participation, lack of social integration and lack of power.' (Room, 1995:5)Room locates the origins of the concept of poverty in the context of the liberal democratic view of society which was the dominant ideology in nineteenth century Britain, and which viewed society as 'A mass of atomised individuals engaged in competition within the market place.

' (Room, 1995:6) The main aim of social policy, according to this perspective, was to ensure each individual had sufficient resources to enable them to compete in the marketplace.In contrast the European perspective sees society as 'a status hierarchy or as a number of collectivities, bound together by sets of mutual rights and obligations that are rooted in some broader moral order.' (Room, 1995:6) This view emphasises the social rights of citizenship to all members of the political and moral community and anyone who is denied access to these rights can be described as socially excluded. This can have a profound affect on the 'citizens' life chances, in terms of health, housing, education and employment opportunities.Room traces the shift in emphasis from concern about poverty to social exclusion through his brief analysis of European anti poverty Programmes, sponsored by the European Commission between 1975 and 1990.

While the first two programmes, (1975-1980) and (1986-89), were largely concerned with the problem of poverty as defined by Peter Townsend, the third (1990-1994), addressed the issue of the integration of the least privileged, who, by the time the programme was introduced, had become widely referred to as the socially excluded. (Room, 1995:7)This shift in emphasis has been welcomed by some, in particular the French, who were distinctly critical of the use of the concept of poverty, in describing the socially disadvantaged. Walker suggests that it is an improvement on the term poverty since'The difference of meaning attached to the term poverty have now become so extreme within the European policy arena, with some actors denying its existence, others bemoaning its rapid growth and most concerned with financial and fiscal implications of any coherent policy response, that its use has been shelved' (Walker in Room, 1995:103)He claims that because of its ambiguity, the term social exclusion may be more effective in terms of EU decision making and facilitate dialogue between member states avoiding endless disputes over the meaning of poverty.Another advantage which have been identified is that rather than simply focus on material inequalities, it highlights the wider problems experienced by the disadvantaged, encouraging policy makers to introduce policies to improve their situation.On the other hand critics suggest that since the concept is so wide, it is difficult to define and therefore measure precisely.

Furthermore policy makers may focus on wider issues at the expense of dealing with the specific material deprivation which is at the root of much social exclusion.This is one of the criticisms made by Ruth Levitas who argues that the way, in which the term social exclusion is currently used, 'absolutely obscures the question of material inequality it was originally intended to illuminate'. (Levitas, 1996:7) She suggests that the idea of the poor as socially excluded, became popular in the United Kingdom during the 1960's and 70's as a result of Townsends view that 'there was a level of income below which people were unable to participate in the normal life of the society which they were supposedly a part' (Levitas, 1996:7)Prior to this it was believed that poverty in the UK had been eradicated with the introduction of the welfare state in the post war years. She sees Townsend as having played a mayor role in highlighting the existence of relative poverty, caused by a lack of material resources, and reintroduced the problem of poverty into the political arena.She claims that Townsend's original connection between social exclusion and its roots in the unequal distribution of wealth has been obscured, "The link made here is centrally between exclusion and unemployment, not primarily exclusion and poverty"(Levitas, 1996:8) People are seen to be socially excluded as a result of their lack of participation in the job market.

The aim of social policy should be to reintegrate the socially excluded through encouraging them into paid work.Levitas (1996:7) cites evidence to support her case through her analysis of various reports from both the European Commission and the Institute for Public Policy research in the UK, all of which emphasise the need for social integration through greater participation in the paid labour market, rather wider than society. She argues that if social exclusion is caused by poverty, as she believes, simply attaching people to the labour market does not provide a solution. Low paid workers for example are already in the paid labour market but still may be excluded from participation in 'normal' society due to their low income.

Some are forced to work long hours, seven days a week to maintain a basic standard of living which can be damaging to health and safety, family life and social life outside work, hardly conducive to social inclusion. Similarly the position of unpaid workers in society is undervalued, as they are viewed as outside the labour market and thus not fully part of the society.Levitas concludes that her main objection to the concept of social exclusion, as it is currently understood is that 'it obscures the fact that the positions into which people are integrated through paid works are fundamentally unequal' (Levitas, 1996:18)The current policies of the labour government do seems to reflect a greater commitment to getting people back to work, rather than raise living standards through an increase in welfare benefits. In fact it may be argued that a cut in welfare benefits would be more conducive to integration since it would encourage the excluded to earn a living, leading to their greater involvement in society. In their early years of office for example, the benefits of single parents were cut, and a scheme introduced to advise them on how to get back into the job market.

The welfare to work scheme is another example in which young unemployed people, who had been unemployed for over six months, were offered the options of subsidised employment, a year of study, six month employment in the voluntary sector or the environmental task force, or risk losing benefit entitlement. (Haralambos, 2000:346) The problem it would appear lies with the individual rather than the job market, which, as Levitas (1996:13) points out, is 'fundamentally unequal'.The concept of social exclusion, which has become widely accepted in the study, measurement and analysis of disadvantaged groups in society, may provide a useful paradigm for understanding the multiple disadvantages which people can experience in society. It highlights the problems faced by people who are excluded from society due to factors such as colour, age or health, as well as material disadvantage. However it is not simply a polite term for poverty, particularly when it can imply policies which target individuals, rather than the structural inequalities which lie at the heart of the capitalism.Poverty still needs to be studied and highlighted because of its resonance in everyday language, people feel that they know what it means and because as an evaluative and emotive term it encourages people to think that something should be done about it.' (Nolan and Wheelan in Haralambos, 2000:305)