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JRF poverty report highlights literacy and numeracy barriers

09 September 2016


FIVE million adults in the UK do not have the basic reading, writing, and numeracy skills needed to secure work today, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has suggested. A further 12.6 million adults also lack basic digital skills, such as the ability to send emails or fill in job-application forms online.

The charity, which funds research into housing, social care, and poverty, published the figures in its latest report, UK Poverty: Causes, costs and solutions, on Tuesday. It warns that the struggle of millions of individuals to carry out everyday tasks such as writing short messages, using a cashpoint, understanding food or price labels, and paying household bills, is a significant cause of poverty in the UK.

“Not only does this make it harder to participate in society, and get a good deal, it locks people out of better opportunities within the job market,” it states. Other vital factors include low wages, insecure jobs, and unemployment, as well as family instability, rising housing costs, and an “ineffective” benefits system.

There are currently 13 million people living in poverty in the UK, which costs the country £78 billion a year, the report states.

The chief executive of JRF, Julia Urwin, said: “The level of poverty in the UK is shameful. This should be a place where everyone can achieve a decent, secure standard of living. Instead, millions of people — many from working families — are struggling to meet their needs.”

The report calls on the Government to follow the charity’s long-term initiative, laid out in an accompanying document, We Can Solve Poverty in the UK: A strategy for governments, businesses, communities and citizens.

It includes “post-Brexit” plans to increase household incomes and reduce spending costs, as well as initiatives to strengthen families and communities, provide financial and market-related advice, and improve education in poorer areas — in particular, on the basic skills.

It calls on the Government to do this by doubling the current participation rate in basic-skills training to 280,000 adults by 2030, at a cost of £200 million a year. Employment gaps between poor and richer areas for the disabled and ethnic-minority groups must also be addressed, the document says.

The Head of Policy at JRF, Katie Schmuecker, said this week: “Everyone should have the basic skills they need to participate in society and build a career. Businesses and communities must help people learn the skills they need to find work and progress into better-paid roles — this needs to be backed by real ambition on the part of Government.”

The full report is at www.jrf.org.uk/report/we-can-solve-poverty-uk.

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