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UK Poverty 2018

A comprehensive analysis of poverty trends and figures: Report by the JRF Analysis Unit

What you need to know

  • Nearly half of children in lone parent families live in poverty, compared with one in four of those in couple families. Over the last five years, poverty rates for children in lone-parent families have risen by around twice as much as those for children in couple families.
  • Four million workers live in poverty, a rise of over half a million over five years. In‑work poverty has been rising even faster than employment, driven almost entirely by increasing poverty among working parents.
  • As a country we achieved very significant falls in poverty in the early 2000s, especially among pensioners and children. The analysis in this report demonstrates the potential to reduce poverty once again by taking action to reduce housing costs for renters, strengthen the support offered by the social security system and open up opportunities for better-paid employment.

More than one in five of our population (22%) are in poverty in our country – 14.3 million people. Of these, 8.2 million are working-age adults, 4.1 million are children and 1.9 million are pensioners. Eight million live in families where at least one person is in work. One-and-a-half million people were living in destitution in the UK at some point during 2017, including 365,000 children. Table 1 shows numbers and rates for different groups in 2016/17.

Overall, 7% of people in the UK are in persistent poverty – 4.6 million people. The highest rate of persistent poverty is among lone parent families (24%), followed by single men without children (12%).

The UK has shown that we can reduce poverty among those who have been most at risk – pensioners and children. This was achieved through a combination of rising employment, tax credits and help with housing costs. However, this progress has begun to unravel; poverty rates are rising, especially among children, due to weakening support through benefits and tax credits, low pay and rising housing costs with less help in meeting them. It is also striking that the poverty rate among working‑age adults without children (who have not been a focus of concerted action to reduce poverty) did not change between 1994/5 and 2004/5, and then rose until 2011/12 before falling somewhat to 2014/15.