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UK Poverty 2019/20

This is the 2019/20 edition of JRF’s annual report on the nature and scale of poverty across the UK and how it affects people who are caught in its grip.

Written by:
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Date published:

For a decent standard of living, we all need security and stability in our lives – secure housing, a reliable income, and support when things get difficult. For too many of us, there is no such security. Millions of people in the UK are struggling to get by, leading insecure and precarious lives, held back from improving their living standards. It’s time to take action on poverty and put this right. In this report we set out what we need to do to turn the tide on poverty.

We need to build the public will for action; this report highlights the importance of place, and how it affects people's access to a job with reliable and sufficient hours. Also the importance of being able to afford to pay your housing costs, and knowing you can rely on the social security system to help you when circumstances threaten to pull you into poverty.

Much of the world of work, social security and the housing market was designed based on decisions about our society’s priorities and resources. We can choose to redesign them so they loosen poverty’s grip and work better for everyone.

These policy solutions would help:

  • 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.