News

Nearly one million people only £10 a week away from poverty, study finds

There have been six prime ministers since this country last made sustained progress on reducing poverty

An array of British bank notes and coins to illustrate story about rising poverty

Nearly one million people only £10 a week away from poverty in ‘dismal’ trend (Suzy Hazelwood/Pexels)

Nearly one million people in the UK are only £10 a week away from poverty, a study has found, in what has been called a “stain on the moral conscience of our nation”. 

Analysis from poverty charity Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has revealed that alongside the estimated 14.2 million people in poverty in the UK, further millions are “teetering on the edge” and unable to afford essentials. 

The JRF’s research found that just under a million people, including 200,000 children, are now within £10 a week from the poverty line. 

An additional 3.2 million people in the UK – equivalent to the population of Wales – are only £40 a week from deep poverty. 

The charity added that seven million households across the country had gone without essentials, like showers, toiletries or adequate clothing, in the last six months – or had gone hungry, or cut or skipped meals in the last 30 days. 

For those already in poverty, large numbers are close to “deep” or “very deep” poverty lines, meaning they are living on incomes of less than 50% or 40% of the UK average.

Around six million people were reported as living in very deep poverty in 2022/23, which is 1.5 million more than two decades ago.

Politicians are missing a ‘level of urgency’ on poverty

The JRF’s CEO Paul Kissack called on the government to act on rising poverty levels, as well as those “teetering on the edge” of poverty, telling whoever wins the general election on 4 July to “make reversing this dismal trend a priority”. 

“There have been six prime ministers since this country last made sustained progress on reducing poverty,” he explained, referencing when poverty last fell consistently in the UK, between 1999/2000 and 2004/2005 under Tony Blair. 

“During that time we’ve seen a sustained rise in the number of people in deep poverty, with hardship and destitution growing even faster.”

He added: “Our political leaders must be specific and ambitious about how they will tackle poverty. But so far there hasn’t been anything like the level of urgency from either Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer that we need to see. Pointing to future growth as a panacea just won’t cut it.  

“Tonight’s (4 June) debate is a chance for both leaders to set out their plans and demonstrate they are serious about addressing hardship. Failure to act is a political and moral choice ≠ and one they should expect to be judged on.” 

In January this year, the JRF found that average income of people in very deep poverty would need to double, at least, to escape poverty, equivalent to £12,800 for a couple with two kids under 14.

“In our report today we find poverty in every corner of the country, across all ages and in all types of families: this is the Britain that will head to the polls later this year,” Kissack wrote for the Big Issue in January.

“Political parties will spend this year making their case to the British people for a future in which the genuine opportunity for a better life feels possible. But no party will be able to realise their aspirations for Britain without a credible plan to address the deepening hardship faced by millions.”

Big Issue is demanding an end to poverty this general election. Will you sign our open letter to party leaders?

Alongside The Trussell Trust and backed by many organisations including the Big Issue, the JRF has previously called for the government to introduce an “essentials guarantee”, so that universal credit provides people with the money they need to cover all of their basic needs like food and household bills. 

The JRF has found that universal credit is insufficient for people to afford the essentials, falling short by around £120 each month. The Big Issue is also calling for the next government to increase universal credit in our Blueprint for Change.

New research has also found that half of people on universal credit have money deducted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) from their payments to repay debts and correct errors.

Analysis by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) showed that universal credit claimants lost a total of £1.3bn from their support in 2022/23, or £63 a month from each household with money deducted.

“The social security system should provide a safety net for us all. But low-income families are trapped in a vicious cycle of debt due to insufficient wages and state support and the relentless pursuit of debts that built up as a result,” Sam Tims, senior economist at the NEF, told the Big Issue.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Meet Jennie – Lib Dem MP Steve Darling's guide dog who's changing the face of politics
jennie the guide dog and mp steve darling
Politics

Meet Jennie – Lib Dem MP Steve Darling's guide dog who's changing the face of politics

How many times have we walked by people, men and women, lying on the streets?
Homelessness

How many times have we walked by people, men and women, lying on the streets?

Four problems Labour must solve to deliver the social housing Britain urgently needs
Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, and Luke Charters, Labour’s candidate for York Outer, speak to apprentices at Persimmon Homes Germany Beck in York.
Social housing

Four problems Labour must solve to deliver the social housing Britain urgently needs

Still no opening date set for UK's first drug consumption room
Drugs

Still no opening date set for UK's first drug consumption room

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know