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The scale of poverty across the UK -JRF Report

February 19, 2020 4:10 PM
Originally published by East Suffolk Liberal Democrats

Joseph Rowntree Foundation on the scale of poverty*** across the UK and how it affects people who are caught in its grip. JRF 2019/20 POVERTY RPT (JRF TWITTER PAGE)

The widely respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released their 2019/20 report UK Poverty.

The report says "For a decent standard of living, we all need security and stability in our lives - secure housing, a reliable income, and support when things get difficult. For too many of us, there is no such security. Millions of people in the UK are struggling to get by, leading insecure and precarious lives, held back from improving their living standards. It's time to take action on poverty and put this right. In this report we set out what we need to do to turn the tide on poverty.

We need to build the public will for action; this report highlights the importance of place, and how it affects people's access to a job with reliable and sufficient hours. Also the importance of being able to afford to pay your housing costs, and knowing you can rely on the social security system to help you when circumstances threaten to pull you into poverty.

Much of the world of work, social security and the housing market was designed based on decisions about our society's priorities and resources. We can choose to redesign them so they loosen poverty's grip and work better for everyone.

Rising in-work poverty has not affected all types of worker equally over the last five years:

  • The risk of poverty has risen for workers in families with children, but there has been little change for workers in families without children.

  • Working single parents have seen the fastest rise; now three in ten are in poverty. It was two in ten in 2010/11.

  • The risk of poverty has increased for both full-time and part-time workers, and for workers with and without disabilities. Differences in employment rates, how much work is full- or part-time and the prevalence of low pay all contribute to differences between regions.

Progress on solving poverty

In our strategy We can solve poverty in the UK (JRF, 2016), we used three measures to indicate progress towards ending poverty by 2030:

  • A poverty rate of less than 10% - it's currently stuck at 22%, with little change in recent years.

  • No one should experience destitution - more than 1.5 million people were destitute at some point
    during 2017, including more than a third of a million children. JRF 2019/20 POVERTY RPT (JRFoundation 2019/20 Rpt)

  • No one should be in poverty for more than two years - currently 7% of individuals have been in poverty for more than two years.
    There has been little change in overall poverty levels for more than 15 years, rising between 2013/14 and 2016/17, before reducing slightly in the latest year's data, but remaining higher than in 2014/15. Around 14 million people are in poverty in the UK (more than one in five of the population) made up of 8 million working-age adults, 4 million children and 2 million pensioners.
    We describe how:

  • Over the last five years, poverty rates have risen for children and pensioners. Poverty rates are highest in London, the North of England, Midlands and Wales, and lowest in the South (excluding London), Scotland and Northern Ireland.

  • Although growing employment and earnings have protected many working-age adults from rising poverty, in-work poverty has risen, because often people's pay, hours, or both, are not enough. Around 56% of people in poverty are in a working family, compared with 39% 20 years ago.

  • Reductions in interest rates have led to cheaper mortgages, reducing poverty rates for people buying with a mortgage. This contrasts with rising housing costs for renters.

  • Once extra-cost disability benefits are discounted, nearly half of all individuals in poverty live in a household where someone is disabled.

  • Poverty (measured after housing costs) fell slightly in 2017/18 compared with 2016/17 because of three housing-related factors: social sector rents in England were reduced by 1%; the proportion of homes being bought with a mortgage (which often have lower housing costs than renting) increased slightly, while the proportion being privately rented fell; and actual private rents fell in some areas.
    Trends in poverty levels are driven by changes in four main factors: the employment rate; earnings; benefits and other income like pensions; and housing costs. Since 2004/05, there has not been a sustained period where all four of these drivers have gone in the right direction.
    A successful strategy on poverty would therefore be rooted in high employment, rising earnings, benefits rising by at least inflation for those who need them, and falling rents compared with earnings and benefits.

  • The importance of work

    Although paid employment reduces the risk of poverty, in-work poverty has risen, from 9.9% of workers in 1997/98 to 12.7% now - an unacceptable situation. Around 56% of people in poverty are in a working family, compared with 39% 20 years ago. This change has been particularly dramatic for children: seven in ten children in poverty are now in a working family.
    Falling benefit incomes and rising housing costs have pulled working families into poverty despite a growth in earnings. This growth has only just brought earnings back to their level pre-recession for low- income working families, who faced the biggest hit to their earnings during the recession. The risk of poverty is higher for workers with disabilities, Black and minority ethnic workers, part-time workers, those in families with children and those in single-adult families, especially lone parents.

  • Policy solutions that would help:
  • We need as many people as possible to be in good jobs. While the proportion of people in employment has risen consistently for six years, weak local economies in some parts of the country have led to higher unemployment, underemployment and more low pay than in the UK as a whole. This needs to change, with prospects for people in struggling places needing to be prioritised, or progress will stall. In addition, employment among disabled people and carers is still low, and they should be supported to work when they can.

  • We need to improve earnings for low-income working families, helping people in the lowest-paid jobs or working part-time. Too many people are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs, with little chance of progression and too few hours of work to reach a decent living standard. Workers need more security, better training and opportunities to progress, particularly in part-time jobs. In-work poverty must be seen as a critical issue for our economy and given high priority by economic policy-makers.

  • We need to strengthen the benefits system so that it provides the anchor that people need in tough times. The current system needs to be improved to ensure it gives adequate support. We also need the system to offer a better service for people using it, and to shift public thinking so that a poverty-fighting social security system is seen as an essential public service and receives sustainable investment.

  • We need to increase the amount of low-cost housing available for families on low incomes, and increase support for people with high housing costs. We also need to address the sense of insecurity felt by many people living in the private rented sector.

***A household where money coming in (pay + benefits) is below 60% of the median income for a similar family type after housing costs is classed as living in poverty. @jrf_uk say 56% of these people live in a household where someone is working jrf.org.uk/report/uk-pove #solveukpoverty

The full report, UK Poverty 2019/20, is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It is available as a free PDF at www.jrf.org.uk