One in three Britons now living in poverty, even in working families

June 25, 2014

Lucy_2 (Custom)By Lucy Palmer-Richeson


The number of Britons living in poverty has more than doubled in size since the early 1980s, a report has revealed. About one-third of UK families now live below the breadline, despite the size of the economy doubling over the same period.

The research, carried out by The Poverty and Social Exclusion project (PSE), led by the University of Bristol, and the largest ever study into poverty in the UK, claims that almost 18 million Britons cannot afford adequate housing and that one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes properly. It also found that 4 million adults and children are not able to eat healthily and could be suffering from malnourishment as a result.

Other published figures showed 2.5 million children live in properties that are damp, 12 million people are too poor to have a social life, 5.5 million adults go without necessary clothing and one in six adults in paid work is still poor. It also found that more than one in five adults has to borrow in order to pay for day-to-day items.

In households where not enough food is an issue, the research found that in 93 per cent of cases, parents often ate less if at all at mealtimes in order to make sure their children are fed.

“The research has shown that in many households’ parents sacrifice their own welfare – going without adequate food, clothing or a social life – in order to try to protect their children from poverty and deprivation,” said Professor Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York) in the PSE’s statement.

Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, said of the research: “The Coalition government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of povertyTheir strategy has clearly failed. The available high quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.”

The research goes a long way to dispel the idea that poverty, especially child poverty, is a consequence of a lack of paid work. It found that the majority of children living below the breadline live in small families with at least one parent who is employed.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “There is strong evidence that incomes have improved over the last 30 years, despite the misleading picture painted by this report. The independent statistics are clear; there are 1.4 million fewer people in poverty since 1998, and under this Government we have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind.”