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Ministers urged to ‘look beyond the numbers’ as report reveals 39% rise in deep poverty since 2000

Ministers urged to ‘look beyond the numbers’ as report reveals 39% rise in deep poverty since 2000

4.5 million people were considered to be living in deep poverty prior to the pandemic (PA)

3 min read

The Government must “look beyond the numbers” if it hopes to tackle a 39% rise in “deep” poverty since the start of the millennium, a stark new report has warned.

Published by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), it also revealed that lone-parent families, BAME families and those including a disabled person were significantly more likely to live in poverty or deep poverty.

According to the SMC review, 4.5 million people were considered to be living in deep poverty - meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline - prior to the pandemic, accounting for 7% of the UK population.

This represents a 39% rise in overall numbers since 2000, when 2.8 million people - accounting for 5% of Brits - fell into the same category. 

If the rate of deep poverty was the same today as it was in 2000/01, 1.3 million fewer people would now be in deep poverty, the report claimed. 

SMC chair Philippa Stroud said the latest stats were “extremely concerning”, and that the trend was “likely to continue” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The SMC’s analysis of those in deep poverty also demonstrates the importance of looking beyond previous headline poverty measures to ensure that all those living in poverty are not viewed as a single group," she added.

“Poverty is more likely to be experienced by some families than others, and the nature of that experience is also incredibly varied. 

“The causes and implications of these various types and experiences of poverty are different, which means the approach needed to tackle them will be different.”

The commission found that, prior to the pandemic, half of all people in poverty lived in a family that included a disabled person.

And it revealed that poverty rates were highest among families with children, with just 11% of childless couples falling under the line compared to a quarter of couples with children and almost half of lone-parent families. 

Poverty rates were also reportedly higher for black and minority ethnic families, with 46% living below the breadline compared to just 19% of white families.

The report warned that the coronavirus crisis was likely to exacerbate these inequalities, asserting that two-thirds of those in deep poverty had seen their hours reduced or lost work since it began.

Meanwhile only a third of those in families living above the poverty line were found to have lost work. 

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We’re committed to supporting the most vulnerable in society and currently spend a record £95 billion a year on our safety net welfare system.

"We know some people are struggling in these unprecedented times and have injected over £6.5 billion into the welfare system, including increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by up to £1,040 a year as well as increasing Local Housing Allowance rates, rolling out income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.

"This builds on action already taken to support low paid families such as raising the living wage, uplifting benefits by inflation and increasing work incentives.”


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