The UK Government has been urged to take action at the Budget in order to tackle Britain’s growing poverty crisis, in response to the publication of a new report which shows that 2.5million people are at risk of falling into poverty.
The Social Metrics Commission has published a new framework for measuring poverty in the UK, which takes into account a wider range of interplaying factors which cause people to fall into poverty – including material resources, the cost of disability, and the cost of childcare.
Sam Royston, director of policy and research at The Children’s Society, said: “While we would welcome these changes to how poverty is measured being included in official statistics, concrete action is needed to tackle the shameful scale of poverty among our children, with all the damage it can do to their wellbeing, education and life chances.”
The Commission found that more than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population (7.7million people) live in persistent poverty. While a further 2.5million people in the UK are less than 10% above the poverty line – meaning relatively small changes in their circumstances could see them fall below it.
Philippa Stroud, the commission’s chair, said: “We want to put poverty at the heart of government policymaking and ensure that the decisions that are made are genuinely made with the long term interests of those in poverty in mind.”
The UK Government abolished child poverty targets under the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 – a moved condemned by the SNP who have reintroduced them in Scotland and have called for their reintroduction across the UK.
Commenting, SNP MP Neil Gray said: “Under the Tories millions of people across the UK have been plunged into poverty – while many more are struggling to get by on the brink of poverty.
“This comprehensive research shows the stark reality of life in the UK after a decade of Tory cuts. It is vital that the UK government uses the forthcoming Budget to end austerity and take urgent action to tackle deprivation.
“With 2.5million people on the verge of poverty it is also clear that the impending threat of a hard Brexit could tip many over the edge – as jobs are destroyed and incomes are squeezed.
“As the Social Metrics Commission’s research highlights it is vital that the debate at Westminster moves away from simply how best to measure poverty and focuses on the action needed to tackle it.
“The Chancellor must radically change approach at the Budget by ditching austerity, ruling out a hard Brexit, and bringing forward serious investment to boost the incomes of disadvantaged families.”
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) chief executive Alison Garnham said: “What we now need is for government to move on from its denial of the problem, set targets for reducing and eradicating child poverty, and implement policies to support low-income families.”
Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The Government’s strategy to tackle poverty consists of trying to mask the deep cuts it has made to social security by disputing the numbers of people in poverty. The Commission highlights how over 10% of people in the UK are trapped in poverty.
“The new measure importantly shows the impact of debt, housing and child care costs, and the extra costs that disabled people face. The extent of poverty it reveals among disabled people and their families is a major concern given the severe cuts to support to them in Universal Credit.
“Labour will put tackling poverty at the heart of government policy again, as the Commission rightly demands, by ending the social security freeze, introducing a £10 Real Living Wage and building the genuinely affordable housing we so desperately need.”