In Depth

One in five now live in poverty in the UK, report finds

400,000 extra children and 300,000 extra pensioners among the poorest compared to 2013

Poverty

Around 700,000 extra pensioners and children are living in poverty now compared to 2013, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The social policy charity’s latest study of UK poverty levels paints a picture of growing want at the vulnerable ends of the age spectrum.

Since 2013, an additional 300,000 people aged over 65, and 400,000 aged under 18 have fallen into relative poverty - defined as reliant on an income worth 60% or less than the median.

In the UK, 14 million people - one in five - are now classed as living in relative poverty, a figure which includes 4 million children and 1.9 million pensioners, The Guardian reports.

Rising rent, household debts, higher food and energy bills and inability to contribute to a sufficient pension are leading factors contributing to the upward trend in poverty levels, says the BBC.

Among families with children, changes and cuts to the benefits system have proven particularly destructive, according to the JRF.

The rise in households with children struggling to make ends meet is “largely due to reductions in the support offered by benefits and tax credits,” says the report, with dwindling state support exacerbated by a rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

The JRF report warns that the rise in poverty levels is reversing the gains of past governments in the battle to reduce the number of households in need.

The UK child poverty rate fell to 27% - its lowest level - in 2010/2011, but since 2013 it has started to rise again, reaching 30% in 2015/16.

Living in relative poverty has been shown to have a destabilising effect on domestic relationships, physical health and mental well-being, and increases the risk of social isolation, particularly among the elderly, says the report.

JRF chief executive Campbell Robb said the “worrying” findings of the report “suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty”.

“Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet,” he said.

The foundation is calling for the government to “end the freeze on working age benefits, build more affordable housing and equip people with the skills they need to get on at work”. 

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