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UK Poverty 2020/21

This is the 2020/21 edition of JRF’s annual report on the nature and scale of poverty across the UK, and how it affects people struggling to stay afloat.

Written by:
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Date published:

We are in the midst of the coronavirus storm – a turbulent time when all of us have felt insecurity and instability. But our analysis shows too many of us entered the pandemic already at risk of being cast adrift into poverty, while often lacking secure housing, a reliable income or adequate support. It also shows that those of us already struggling to keep our heads above water have often been hit the hardest.

Our response to the pandemic should be measured by how just and compassionate it is to people in poverty, whether they were already experiencing hardship or have been swept into it.

This report highlights early indications of how poverty has changed in our society since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the situation revealed by the latest poverty data, collected before the outbreak. It examines overall changes to poverty, with sections looking at the impact of work, the social security system and housing. It also benefits from powerful insights from members of our Grassroots Poverty Action Group, who have direct experience of living on a low income.


  • We need as many people as possible to be in good jobs. Unemployment is expected to rise in the coming months, and we need to see further bold action to retrain workers and create good quality new jobs.
  • We need to improve earnings for low-income working families and ensure more people are in secure, good quality work. Government must support people in the lowest-paid jobs, or people working part-time, to move into higher pay and access sufficient and secure working hours, including bringing forward the Employment Bill.
  • We need to strengthen the benefits system. At a minimum, we need the temporary £20 per week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit to be made permanent, extending this same lifeline to people on legacy benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance.
  • We need to increase the amount of low-cost housing available for families on low incomes and increase support for households who have high housing costs.