THE pressure on the poorest in society has not been as bad as
this since before the birth of the Welfare State in the 1940s, a
new report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)
The annual report by the New Policy Institute, Monitoring
Poverty and Social Exclusion, published this month, makes a
"bleak" forecast for the future. "For those not working, the price
of state financial support is discipline and demonisation," the
authors write. "The real value of that support, already low . . .
continues to fall."
The authors note that, for the first time since 1996, when the
data series started, there are more people in working families
living below the poverty line (6.7 million - an increase of
5000,000 on the previous year) than in workless and retired
families combined (6.3 million).
"Hard work is not working," the chief executive of JRF, Julia
Unwin, said. "We have a labour market that lacks pay and
protection, with jobs offering precious little security, and paltry
The poverty line is set at 60 per cent of median income, and is
currently £128 per week for a single person, and £357 for a couple
with two children. The proportion of those below this line - 21 per
cent - is the second lowest since the mid-'90s. The authors note
that the statistics are two years old; also that the relative
measure of poverty means that a family could be lifted out of
poverty simply because the median income had fallen.
The report is not uniformly negative. Pensioner poverty is at
its lowest level for 30 years -14 per cent - and the authors
suggest that it is "quite possible" that this is the lowest it has
ever been. Child poverty has fallen to 27 per cent, the lowest
level for almost 25 years. The authors also note that the labour
market is stronger in 2013 than it was a year ago. The proportion
of households that are workless - 17 per cent - is the lowest since
They warn, however, that these "small" developments "cannot in
any way be seen as 'balancing' reforms that have cut the incomes of
some of the poorest people in the country".
Low pay alone does not guarantee poverty, the report says:
factors such as family size and housing costs have an impact. It
also says that even working full-time with a Living Wage may not
lift a family out of poverty. Among the causes, the authors
suggest, are "the behaviour of both financial and non-financial
corporations", and the "laxity of regulators".