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Damning report reveals UK's shocking levels of poverty

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Damning report reveals UK's shocking levels of poverty

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Central Government, Health, Housing

Coalition 'making same mistakes as Labour' on poverty - JRF Coalition 'making same mistakes as Labour' on poverty - JRF

The largest ever study of poverty and deprivation in the UK has revealed that the country's poverty levels are soaring – with even those in full-time work suffering badly, despite popular myths that only ‘shirkers’ are in dire straits.

The Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project's findings show that:

  • The number of households that fall below the minimum standard of living has risen from 14% to 33% over the last 30 years - despite the size of the economy doubling in the same period.
  • Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions.
  • 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities.
  • One in three people cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter.
  • Four million children and adults aren’t properly fed by today’s standards.

Led by the University of Bristol and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC], the project found that full-time work is not always sufficient to escape from poverty and calls on the government to take action.

Shockingly, researchers found that:

• About 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing.

• Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.

• Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.

• One in four adults have incomes below what they consider is needed to avoid poverty.

• One in every six (17%) adults in paid work are poor.

• More than one in five adults have had to borrow in the last year to pay for day to day needs.

The PSE standard of living survey results show that more than one in every five (22%) children and adults were poor at the end of 2012. They had both a low income and were also ‘multiply deprived’ - suffering from three or more deprivations such as lack of food, heating and clothing due to a lack of money.

Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said: “The coalition government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed. The available high quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.”

Far more households are in arrears on their household bills in 2012 (21%) than in 1999 (14%), with the most common arrears now utility bills, council tax and mortgage/rent.

Researchers say that the results dispel the myth, often conveyed by government ministers, that poverty in general and child poverty in particular is a consequence of a lack of paid work.

For a large number of people, even full-time work is not sufficient to escape from poverty.

Almost half of the working poor work 40 hours a week or more. One third of adults currently in employment (35%) are in ‘exclusionary work’ - in poverty, in low quality work and/or have experienced prolonged periods of unemployment in the last five years.

Nick Bailey, from the University of Glasgow, said: “The UK government continues to ignore the working poor; they do not have adequate policies to address this growing problem.”

The project found that the majority of children who suffer from multiple deprivations – such as going without basic necessities, having an inadequate diet and clothing - live in small families with one or two siblings, live with both parents, have at least one parent who is employed, are white and live in England.

More than one in four adults (28%) have skimped on their own food in the past year so that others in the household may eat.

Despite this over half a million children live in families who cannot afford to feed them properly.

In 93% of households where children suffer from food deprivation, at least one adult skimped on their own food ‘sometimes’ or ‘often’ to ensure others have enough to eat.

Women were more likely to cut back than men - 44% of women had cut back on four or more items (such as food, buying clothes and social visits) in the last 12 months compared to 34% of men.

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, from the University of York, said: “The research has shown that in many households parents sacrifice their own welfare - going without adequate food, clothing or a social life - in order to try to protect their children from poverty and deprivation.”

Although more people today see a range of public services as ‘essential’ than in 1999, including libraries, sports centres, museums, galleries, dentists and opticians, the use of many services has declined since 1999 primarily due to reduced availability, cost or inadequacy.

Professor Glen Bramley, from Herriot-Watt University, said: “It is worrying that in the 21st century more than 40% of households who want to use meals on wheels, evening classes, museums, youth clubs, citizens’ advice or special transport cannot do so due to unavailability, unaffordability or inadequacy.”

Rachel Reeves MP, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "This shocking report shows David Cameron’s government have completely failed to tackle poverty and deprivation.

"Child poverty is set to rise, not fall under his government. Labour will tackle the cost-of-living crisis and make work pay by raising the minimum wage, getting more employers to pay a living wage, freezing energy bills and scrapping the cruel and unfair bedroom tax."

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