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One in five in UK is living in hardship

14 February 2020

JRF report suggests working single parents are experiencing the sharpest rise


The Vicar of St Mary’s, Willesden, in London, Fr Christopher Phillips, with members of the congregation and Brent Foodbank volunteers, on Monday

The Vicar of St Mary’s, Willesden, in London, Fr Christopher Phillips, with members of the congregation and Brent Foodbank volunteers, on Monday

ONE in five people in the UK is now living in poverty: working single parents are experiencing the sharpest rise, but pensioners and children are also more at risk, the annual report of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has suggested.

Its latest data reveals that poverty has increased in the UK, and more working households are experiencing poverty. The rise in children from working families who are experiencing poverty is “particularly dramatic”, the report finds: seven in ten children in poverty are from a working family. The fastest rise of all in poverty rates has been for working single parents: one third of them are now living in poverty, up from 20 per cent a decade ago.

The JRF said that, without better support for working families, Britain would face deeper divisions and worse poverty to come.

About 14 million people are in poverty in the UK, including eight million working-age adults, four million children, and two million pensioners. Nearly half of all those living in poverty are living in a household where someone is disabled.

Poverty rates are highest in London, the north, the Midlands, and Wales, and lowest in the south, and Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

The report identifies two of the biggest drivers of poverty: the lack of availability of well-paid jobs, and high housing costs, such as in London.

The report’s authors said that, if the Government really means to “unite and level up” the UK after Brexit, it needs to take action in boosting wages in areas such as the north-east of England, and reducing housing costs in London.

The report also noted the rise in what it describes as “concealed households”: families within families, in which young people in their twenties and thirties are still living at home. More than one third of grown-up children still have to live at home with a parent or grandparent, because of the unaffordability of housing.

The executive director of the JRF, Claire Ainsley, said: “Without a better deal for working families, and a social-security system that provides a public service for all of us, the UK faces further division and deeper poverty.

“If the next decade is to see true levelling up, it will be because we have broken the grip of poverty and unlocked the UK’s potential, not because we invested in eye-catching schemes. As a nation, we have made progress before, and we can and must do so again with this new Government and a new settlement after Brexit.”

Emma Revie, of the Trussell Trust, said that the report summed up what the Trust’s foodbanks were experiencing: “For too many people, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water.”

The Trust has called for local emergency support for people in crisis, and a benefit system that covers the cost of living.

“As a country, we can’t shy away from the changes that would make a real difference to pull people out of poverty, and, ultimately, end the need for foodbanks in the UK. It’s in our power to make a change,” Ms Revie said.

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