Poverty: special report

Poverty policy needs an urgent review to assist low paid and unemployed people, according to a report published this week.

Government strategy has made a difference in reducing poverty for certain groups, notably children and older people argues the report, by think-tank the New Policy Institute.

“Where government has acted, change has happened,” it states.

However poverty among low-paid working adults and unemployed people needs addressing. In particular, disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty due to the barriers they face finding work, the report finds.

As well as central government other institutions including local government and workplaces, need to tackle poverty, it argues.


Child poverty
• Government has “turned the tide” on child poverty but failed to meet its target of taking one million children out of poverty. (Numbers of children in poverty in Britain fell by 700,000 from 4.1million in 1998/99 to 3.4 million in 2004/05).
• Half of all children in poverty come from working families. This means the “key proposition” behind the government’s anti-poverty strategy, that work is the way out of poverty “does not apply for many people.”  Low pay is the “underlying problem” and a “low-paid couple can only avoid poverty if both are working.”

Adult poverty
• The poverty rate in adults of working age is 19% and has “barely changed for at least a decade”. Around half of working-age adults in poverty live in households where someone is working.
• Poverty among disabled adults is twice that for non-disabled adults and the gap is rising. The main reason is unemployment among disabled people, due to the barriers they face finding work.
• Poverty among pensioners has seen a big fall from 27% in the late 1990s to 17% in 2004/05. Among single pensioners the rate has halved from 33% to 17%.

Council tax
• Households who are in poverty yet pay full council has risen from 45% in the late 1990s to 58% now. “For these households, council tax either tips them over the line into poverty or pushes them further beneath it,” states the report. Failure to take up council tax and other benefits is an issue, particularly for older people.

• Health inequalities by social class ranging from the risk of mental illness to infant death “are pervasive and seem to be more impervious to change than other forms of inequality.”

• Over a quarter of 19-year-olds fail to reach a minimum standard of education (NVQ2). This group “face the highest risk of poverty in adult life” so “one of the major causes of future poverty is not being addressed.” 15% of 16-year-olds are not in education or training – unchanged since 2000.

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2006 is by think-tank the New Policy Institute and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Trust.  The ninth in a series, the report covers the whole of the UK, wherever sources permit.

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