- REUTERS/Michaela Rehle
- Hundreds of thousands more people in the UK are now living in poverty than were four years ago, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
- The think tank said the progress to reduce poverty made over the last 20 years had started to reverse.
- Increasing rent prices and falling state support were significant contributing factors to the rise in poverty, the report said.
LONDON – Hundreds of thousands more UK children and pensioners are living in poverty than were four years ago, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JFR).
The report found “continued increases in poverty” since 2012/13, with an increase of almost 400,000 children and 300,000 pensioners living below the poverty line.
Although the last 20 years witnessed a dramatic reduction in the number of children and pensioners living in poverty, the report said that progress “is beginning to unravel,” with both group now experiencing a sustained rise in poverty.
The JRF called for a “national mission” to transform the prospects of millions of people living in poverty in the UK. That would include unfreezing benefits, increasing training for adult workers, and working on a house-building programme to ensure there is more affordable housing available.
“These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of the JRF.
“Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet. This is a very real warning sign that our hard-fought progress is in peril,” he said.
The news comes after Theresa May’s entire social mobility board quit over the weekend, amid fears that the government is failing to create a more equal society.
According to the report, 14 million people live in poverty in the UK – over one in five of the population. Four million of these are children, and eight million are from families where at least one person is in work. In 1994/95, it said , 58% of lone parents lived in poverty, which fell to a low of 41% in 2010/11. But by 2015/16 this had risen again to 46%.
Since 2012, “very little progress has been made in reducing poverty among working-age adults,” the report said.
The JRF pointed to three factors that had previously contributed to a fall in poverty which were now in question: state support for those on low incomes is falling in real terms, rents are increasing, and rising employment is no longer reducing poverty.
“Record employment is not leading to lower poverty, changes to benefits and tax credits are reducing incomes and crippling costs are squeezing budgets to breaking point,” said Campbell. “The Budget offered little to ease the strain and put low income households’ finances on a firmer footing,” he said.
In England, London and the North East have the highest rates of poverty. While all parts of England and Wales saw a drop in poverty between 1993 and 2004, all regions have seen a significant increase since then.
In November the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecast that child poverty will continue to rise until the end of this Parliament.