Latest JRF report shows the scale of the poverty problem
By Graham Whitham
UK Poverty 2019/20 is the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s annual landmark report on levels of poverty in the UK. It highlights the growing problem of in-work poverty, with over half of working age adults and three in ten children in poverty living in a household where at least one person is in work. The report shows that disabled people, single parents and people living in certain parts of the country are at greater risk of poverty.
In the UK, 14 million people are living below the poverty. Whilst progress was made in reducing poverty among certain groups (single parent families, children and pensioners) in the noughties, the JRF argue that progress is now beginning to unravel. Even poverty among pensioners, a group who’ve largely been protected from social security cuts, is starting to go up.
The report identifies the following policy solutions to help address poverty across the country:
- “We need as many people as possible to be in good jobs. While the proportion of people in employment has risen consistently for six years, weak local economies in some parts of the country have led to higher unemployment, underemployment and more low pay than in the UK as a whole. This needs to change, with prospects for people in struggling places needing to be prioritised, or progress will stall. In addition, employment among disabled people and carers is still low, and they should be supported to work when they can.”
- “We need to improve earnings for low-income working families, helping people in the lowest-paid jobs or working part-time. Too many people are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs, with little chance of progression and too few hours of work to reach a decent living standard. Workers need more security, better training and opportunities to progress, particularly in part-time jobs. In-work poverty must be seen as a critical issue for our economy and given high priority by economic policy-makers.”
- “We need to strengthen the benefits system so that it provides the anchor that people need in tough times.The current system needs to be improved to ensure it gives adequate support. We also need the system to offer a better service for people using it, and to shift public thinking so that a poverty-fighting social security system is seen as an essential public service and receives sustainable investment.”
- “We need to increase the amount of low-cost housing available for families on low incomes and increase support for people with high housing costs. We also need to address the sense of insecurity felt by many people living in the private rented sector.”
In Greater Manchester, as in other parts of England, we may feel we have limited powers to address poverty. However, the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign (hosted by GMPA), the Mayor’s Good Employment Charter and public sector commissioning that places a strong emphasis on social value can help improve the quality of work in the city region. We can begin to think more imaginatively and be more ambitious in the way we use what powers we do have over the benefits system. This means strengthening Council Tax Support and local welfare assistance schemes, and calling for the devolution of more parts of the social security system where that allows us to do more to address poverty locally. Whilst the JRF report doesn’t acknowledge the role of localities in addressing poverty, we at GMPA know there is no shortage of opportunities for stakeholders in Greater Manchester to address poverty if we’re given the power and resources to do so.