New figures released today show that the number of people, including children, living in poverty in the UK is increasing. Young Academic’s Features Editor Robert Gant reports on this worrying trend.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies says an extra 600,000 children will be living in poverty by 2013, taking the total to over 3.1 million. As a percentage, that will equate to 22% of children in the United Kingdom who will be living in poverty.
The IFS forecasts are also bleak for the so called ‘squeezed middle’ of England. Incomes are going to fall more sharply than at any time since the 1970s, plunging another 800,000 adults into absolute poverty by 2013. To be considered below the poverty line people must be living on a household income which is below 60% of the median national income. In real terms the forecasts predict that median incomes will fall by 7% after inflation has been taken into account. That is the largest average income drop for 35 years.
The figures seem to go against David Cameron’s pre-election promises, in which he promised to cut poverty claiming it ‘fighting relative poverty was a central policy goal’.
Earlier today Universities Minister David Willetts spoke on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, defending the government’s record, blaming the global economic conditions for the drop in living standards.
“We’ve tried to hold down fuel duty …we’re freezing council tax, we’ve increased the income tax allowance. We’ve tried to do the things that help,” he argued.
“But you can’t ignore the basic rules of economics that when you inherit a situation where an economy has shrunk by 7%, the money isn’t there. We’re living with the consequences of a serious drop in the economy and that’s feeding into living standards across the board.”
The latest IFS report will offer Ed Miliband a chance to defend Labours record on poverty after the report acknowledged that the previous government had cut child poverty by nearly a quarter between 1998 and 2009 after it increased spending on benefits and tax credits.
Sally Copley of Save the Children says what it actually means for children to live in poverty is facing the reality of going to school hungry, not in the correct school uniform because their family can’t afford it and living in cramped, often cold conditions.
The IFS report was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The implications for wider society are grim and campaign groups are urging people not to view this as a problem for the poorest section of society alone. Figures show that children raised in poverty will fall behind in terms of education, are more likely to commit crime and have a higher chance of being unemployed in later life.