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Hundreds of thousands more children and pensioners in poverty

Words: Huw Morris
Poverty / iStock-486357920-(1)

The UK’s record on tackling poverty has reached 'a turning point' as latest research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests an additional 700,000 children and pensioners have slipped below the breadline.

Almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners now live in poverty than in 2012/13.

Poverty rates rose last year to 16 per cent for pensioners and 30 per cent for children, the JRF said. A total of 14 million people now live in poverty in the UK – more than one in five of the population - comprising eight million working-age adults, four million children and 1.9 million pensioners.

A total of 8 million live in families where at least one person is in work. One in eight workers, 3.7 million people, live in poverty and 40 per cent of working-age adults with no qualifications are living in poverty - facing a barrier to work or better pay.

Almost half on the lowest incomes - 3.2 million working-age people - now spend more than a third of their income on housing. Falling homeownership means that in the future more older people are likely to rent and have higher housing costs in retirement.

The JRF said the government must end the four-year freeze on working age benefits and tax credits which it describes as  “the single biggest policy driver behind rising poverty”.

It also urged the government to invest in a more ambitious housebuilding programme that provides 80,000 “new genuinely affordable homes” to rent and buy every year that are in the reach of low income families, over cuts to stamp duty that benefit people who own or can already afford to buy.

The government should also use its industrial strategy to double participation in digital, literacy and numeracy training to meet all basic skills needs by 2030 so people can get on at work and progress to higher wages.

“These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty,” said JRF chief executive Campbell Robb. “Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet.

“As we prepare to leave the EU, we have to make sure that our country and our economy works for everyone and doesn’t leave even more people behind.”

Image credit | iStock