More than one in five now live in poverty in the UK

Britain is at a ‘turning point’ in its fight against poverty, which now affects more than one in five people, according to a new report.

Published today, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s (JRF) UK Poverty 2017 report, warns almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more children are now living in poverty than were five years ago.

It adds poverty rates rose by 16% for pensioners and 30% for children in the last year alone and 14 million people now live in poverty in this country.

The report also claims the continued squeeze on living standards risks storing up future problems for a ‘standstill generation’ who are unable to build foundations for a secure life.

It claims one in eight workers live in poverty and 40% of working-age adults with no qualifications are living in poverty.

And 3.2 million working-age people now spend more than a third of their income on housing.

The report adds falling home ownership figures mean in the future more people are likely to rent and have higher housing costs after they retire.

In order to prevent the UK’s track record on tackling poverty from ‘unravelling’, the JRF has made several suggestions, including ending the four-year freeze on working-age benefits and tax credits.

The think tank has also called on the government to invest more in ‘genuinely affordable’ homes, which are ‘in the reach of low income families’.

‘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. This is a very real warning sign that our hard-fought progress is in peril,’ added Mr Robb.

‘Action to tackle child and pensioner poverty has provided millions of families with better living standards and financial security. However 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. The budget offered little to ease the strain and put low-income households’ finances on a firmer footing.’

The report comes just a day after it was revealed all four members of the government’s social mobility commission have stood down.

In his resignation letter to the prime minster, commission chair Alan Milburn said while some government ministers, including the education secretary, have shown a ‘deep commitment to the issue’ of social mobility, it has ‘become obvious that the government as a whole is unable to commit the same level of support’.

‘It is understandably focused on Brexit and does not seem to have the necessary bandwidth to ensure that the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality,’ wrote Mr Milburn.

‘I do not doubt your personal belief in social justice, but I see little evidence of that being translated into meaningful action.’

The commission published its annual state of the nation report last week, which warned the UK is in ‘the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division’ and called on government to increase its spending on those parts of the country that most need it.

Speaking on the Sky News programme Sunday with Niall Paterson yesterday, education secretary Justine Greening, defended the government’s track record on social mobility.

‘It is a generational challenge, there is no doubt about that and I don’t think any of us should accept a country where you have a different shot of being successful purely because of where you are growing up or your background,’ said Ms Greening.

‘We don’t fix that overnight, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.’


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