An independent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that around 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty, which is more than one in five of the population. The report’s figures indicate that 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners now live in poverty than they did five years ago. It shows that, during this time, there have been continued increases in poverty across both age groups, prompting experts to warn that hard-fought progress towards tackling hardship is in ‘peril’. Key findings in the report include the statistics that 30% of children and 16% of pensioners now live in poverty and one in eight workers live in poverty.
While poverty levels fell in the years to 2011/12, changes to welfare policy – significantly since the 2015 Budget – have seen the numbers creep up again.
The findings add to the problems facing the Prime Minister over improving the UK’s equality issues, following the resignation of the entire board of her social mobility commission recently, ‘due to a lack of progress towards a fairer Britain’. Chair of the now defunct commission, Alan Milburn, stated his resignation followed months of ‘indecision, dysfunctionality and lack of leadership’, with there being ‘little hope’ of Theresa May’s administration ‘delivering a more equal society’.
The report states that over the last 20 years the UK has seen ‘very significant falls in poverty among children and pensioners’. 20 years ago a third of children lived in poverty, which fell to 27% in 2011/12. Meanwhile in 1994/95, 28% of pensioners lived in poverty, falling to 13% in 2011/12.
The foundation believes this progress is now at risk of reversing, with poverty rates for both groups rising again to 16% for pensioners and 30% for children.
Key points from the report include:
30% of children and 16% of pensioners now live in poverty;
one in eight workers live in poverty – 3.7 million;
47% of working-age adults on low incomes spend more than a third of their income (including housing benefit) on housing costs'
more than a third of working-age adults receiving housing benefit now have to top it up out of their other income to cover their rent;
30% of people living in a family with a disabled member live in poverty, compared to 19% of those who do not;
nearly a quarter of adults in the poorest fifth of the population experience depression or anxiety;
more than one in ten working-age adults in the poorest two fifths and around one in six pensioners in the poorest fifth are socially isolated;
20% of those in the poorest fifth have ‘problem debt’;
70% of people in work are not contributing to a pension.