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Social security

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2015

The 2015 edition of our annual report, also known as MPSE 2015, revealing the definitive picture of poverty in the UK

Written by:
Tom MacInnes, Adam Tinson, Ceri Hughes, Theo Barry Born and Hannah Aldridge
Date published:

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion (MPSE) is a regular, independent assessment of progress in tackling poverty and other types of disadvantage across the United Kingdom. The report, written by the New Policy Institute, uses official data from a range of sources to look at trends and patterns, allowing us to get a better understanding of the nature of poverty and exclusion.

Overview: Analysis of trends

The record of the last five years

The data on the labour market and benefit claims covers 2015. The data on incomes and poverty is less recent, taking us only to March 2014.

So what can we say about the Coalition’s record on incomes, jobs, pay, homelessness and education? Inevitably, the record contains good and bad, but the divisions between those indicators which have improved and those which have not is instructive. The table below summarises the changes over both the last five years and the last ten.

Much of the ‘good’ is found in the employment chapter. Unemployment has fallen markedly over the last five years from 2.5 million to 1.8 million even if it is not quite back to the level of the mid-2000s. This is true for young adults as well as older adults, and true for long- and short-term unemployment. Household worklessness is now the lowest on record – only 16 per cent of working-age households have no working adult.

There are a few caveats to this good news story; there are more people on temporary contracts than five years ago, and more people in self-employment, for whom incomes have been falling. There are more people working part-time but wanting full-time work. Pay rates are lower than five years ago across the distribution, after inflation has been taken into account. Still, though, the improvement is real – there are more people in full-time, permanent jobs as well.

This rise in employment has knock-on effects when we look at the number of people claiming benefits, but overall the indicators in the social security chapter are pretty mixed. Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claims have fallen much more quickly than unemployment, leaving around 680,000 unemployed people not claiming the support they are entitled to. Out-of-work Housing Benefit claims have fallen, but claims among working families have risen. And while the number of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is lower now than in 2010, it rose in the last year, after falling almost every year in the previous decade.

Summary of indicators

The table below shows how indicators in the report have changed over the last five and ten years – better, worse or same. The assessment tends to be conservative; where there is any doubt, the assessment is of no change.

IndicatorLast 5 yearsPrevious 5 yearsTotal 10-year view
Median income-
Bottom tenth income---
Child poverty (AHC)-
Working-age poverty (AHC)-
Pensioner poverty (AHC)
Persistent poverty (whole population)-No dataNo data
Housing affordability for poorest fifth-
Housing affordability for middle fifth-
Households in poverty in arrears with bills---
Households in the bottom fifth with no savingsNo dataNo data
Work and worklessness
IndicatorLast 5 yearsPrevious 5 yearsTotal 10-year view
Young adult unemployment
Involuntary temporary workers
Low-paid jobs---
Workless households
Lone parent working rates