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JRF: annual figures show unacceptable increase in poverty

Date published:

The Government’s annual Households below average income data released today provides the most comprehensive overview of poverty in the UK. The latest figures show that in 2021/22:

  • 14.4 million people were living in poverty in the UK, including 4.2 million children, 8.1 million working-age adults and 2.1 million pensioners.
  • Much of the reduction in poverty during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic had been reversed: pensioner poverty had returned to pre-pandemic levels (18%) and the proportion of children in poverty has also increased (from 27% to 29%).
  • Over the last decade the number of children living in poverty has risen by around 600,000 – an increase of 2 percentage points. The number of pensioners living in poverty has risen by around 500,000 – an increase of 4 percentage points.
  • In-work poverty remained stubbornly high: over a half of people in poverty lived in a family where at least one adult is in work (54%). Over two thirds of children in poverty lived in a working family (71%).
  • Poverty rates are particularly high for certain racialised communities. Around 50% of people in households headed by someone of Bangladeshi ethnicity (49%) or Pakistani ethnicity (53%) were in poverty[1].
  • A third of people living in a household with a disabled child were living in poverty (33%) – the highest level since 2008/09.
  • Poverty among private renters has increased – up from 32% in 2020/21 to 35% in 2021/22. Almost half of all families with children living in the private rented sector were in poverty (46%).

Commenting on the figures, Peter Matejic, Chief Analyst at JRF, said:

“Child poverty and pensioner poverty are rising again. This is a shameful trend that should jolt the government into action – we cannot allow it to become the norm.

“These figures also show the stark consequences of the government’s decision to remove the £20 a week uplift to Universal Credit in October 2021. The increase played a crucial role in reducing the number of children living in poverty in the previous year – progress that has now been reversed.

“Most worryingly of all, much of the data in today’s statistics covers the period before inflation began to spiral and the cost of living crisis started to bite. Poverty was already on the increase as we entered this crisis and despite the support provided by the government over the last year the situation has continued to worsen for millions.

“Inflation remains in double digits and rents have rocketed. Benefit levels are so low that people cannot afford to buy food or heat their homes. At the very least the government must ensure that the basic rate of Universal Credit is actually linked to the cost of essentials if it expects to make any meaningful progress on poverty.”

Additional statistics

  • Poverty rates were highest in England (22%), Wales (22%) and Scotland (21%) and lowest in and Northern Ireland (16%).[2]
  • Over a quarter of people in families in which someone has a disability were in poverty compared to around 1 in 5 people in families in which no one is disabled.[3]
  • 9% of people living in poverty reported using a food bank in the twelve months prior to the survey, compared to only 2% of those not in poverty.
  • 43% of social renters were living in poverty – the highest rate across all housing tenures.
  • Those in poverty were around four times as likely to be experiencing food insecurity (17%) as those not in poverty (4%).

[1] Based on an average of 2019/20 and 2021/22.

[2] Based on an average of 2019/20 and 2021/22.

[3] Calculated excluding extra-cost disability benefits as income, as these are to pay for extra costs rather than improve someone’s living standards.