Social Justice

Breaking grip of poverty is key to “levelling up Britain”, says JRF

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual State Of The Union report revealed that children have the highest poverty rate throughout the last 20 years

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling for a change.

If the Government wants to “level up Britain”, as Boris Johnson has repeatedly vowed, then they need to break “the grip of poverty”, says the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) as they revealed shocking poverty statistics.

The social change organisation’s annual State of the Union report found that children have had the highest poverty rate throughout the last 20 years with four million living in poverty in 2017/18.

In particularly, kids and pensioners have seen poverty rise over the last five years while in-work poverty has also increased despite employment rates improving – that can be put down to people’s pay and hours not being enough on the whole.

A total of 14 million people live in poverty in the UK and just over of half are in a working family – 56 per cent of people in poverty compared to 39 per cent 20 years ago.

Once extra-cost disability benefits are discounted from the full total, four million people are disabled and a further three million live in a household with someone who has a disability.

Brits in London, the north of England, the Midlands and Wales bear the brunt of the UK’s poverty crisis while the south, aside from London, Scotland and Northern Ireland see reduced poverty rates.

The differences can be put down to two major drivers, the availability of good-quality jobs and housing costs.

If the Government is to “level up” Britain as it has stated, boosting job security and quality will be crucial, as will viewing the benefits system as an essential public service that loosens the grip of poverty and making more low-cost housing available, says JRF executive director Claire Ainsley.

“The new government has an historic opportunity as we enter the 2020s. Past successes in recent decades show that it is possible for the UK to loosen the grip of poverty among those most at risk. But this progress has begun to unravel and it will take sustained effort across the country and throughout the governments of the UK to unlock poverty.

“Millions of families care for each other, raise their children and work hard without any guarantee that they will escape poverty – governments, employers and landlords all have a role to play in changing this. It’s not right that so many are unable to build a firm foundation to their lives because their jobs are insecure or they can’t find a home they can afford.

“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. That better deal needs to encompass the basics we all need – from building new homes to funding social security and bringing better jobs to all parts of the country.

“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.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson insisted that tackling poverty is a “government priority”.

They said: “We know that getting into work is the best route out of poverty – and there are more people in work than ever before. Wages are outstripping inflation and absolute poverty is lower than in 2010.

“We know that some need more help, which is why we spend over £95bn a year on working-age benefits. Millions will see their benefit payments rise further from April and we’re also boosting the incomes of pensioners each year through the triple lock.”

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