Charlotte Morris reflects on what we have learned during a year of austerity cuts, welfare shake-ups and rising living costs.
It’s that time of year again, December draws to a close and we start looking back on the highs and lows of the previous year. When it comes to the work we do at JRF, we are not really about quick wins; it’s about winning the war, not the battles. We do not tackle problems that can be solved overnight, but our research team have come up with some pretty good stats on the problem that we are facing in 2013:
- For the first time, there are more people in working families living below the poverty line (6.7 million) than in workless and retired families in poverty combined (6.3 million), having suffered a sustained and ‘unprecedented’ fall in their living standards.
- Deprived areas across England and Scotland are experiencing larger cuts to local government budgets than affluent ones, with a difference of about £100 per head between the richest and poorest areas. The North-South difference in England is £69 per head.
- The minimum cost of living has soared by 25% since the economic downturn.
- Attitudes to people on welfare are hardening.
- More and more of us are living alone – the number of middle-aged people living alone has increased by almost a third in just ten years.
- In Scotland, a boy born in a wealthy area will live 14 years longer than a boy born into poverty.
- Pensioner poverty is at its lowest level for 30 years.
- Without a step change in our attitude towards fixing the housing crisis we’ll stay locked into a boom and bust housing market, increasingly crowding out young, poor and vulnerable people.
We monitor poverty year-on-year so that our statistics can be used to hold policy-makers to account. We also produce toolkits, events and guides. In the New Year we will be producing a Rough Guide to Ageing, staging a lecture by leading economist Amartya Sen at LSE with prospect Magazine, and launching a programme in Leeds that looks at what cities can do to reduce poverty. Bring it on 2014 – let the battle commence.