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Poverty report finds millions suffer hardship

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Issue 2583
Campaigning against Universal Credit in Brixton, south London
Campaigning against Universal Credit in Brixton, south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Tory rule has increased the number of children, pensioners and workers who live in poverty—reversing a long-term decline.

That’s the finding of a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank. Its UK Poverty 2017 report blamed rising costs of living, the housing crisis, low pay and benefit cuts.

Some 30 percent of children lived in poverty in 2015-16, up from 27 percent in 2011-12. Those most at risk are in single parent families or families with more than two children.

For these families benefit cuts have more than cancelled out the effects of minimum wage increases and tax cuts. Some 16 percent of pensioners are now in poverty, up from 13 percent.

And disabled people are more likely to be poor. Some 30 percent of households including a disabled person are in poverty.

Despite Tory scapegoating of unemployed people, the report notes that rising employment levels are no longer a route out of poverty.

Some workers can’t get the hours they need. Others are trapped on low pay rates—and cuts to benefits such as tax credits and housing benefits hit them too.

One worker in eight lives in poverty—some 3.7 million people. The results include problem debts, social isolation and depression.

And while housing costs have soared, for many people the quality of housing has not improved. Among the poorest fifth of England’s population, one person in five lives in “non-decent” homes.

There’s enough wealth that no-one should live in poverty. But the Tories’ policies are set to make it even worse.

The government last week confirmed that it was continuing to freeze working-age benefits below inflation.

And cuts that have yet to show up in these figures—such as the two child limit for child benefit—give the hardest-hit groups another kicking.

Campaigners took to the streets across Britain on Saturday warning that Universal Credit (UC) means “Christmas is cancelled”.

It came as Scotland’s children’s commissioner Bruce Adamson said he could sue the government over UC depriving children of warm homes and hot meals.

The protests were organised by the Unite union’s Community section.

The protests called on the government to pause the rollout of UC to “fix” it. It should be scrapped.

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