Today the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) has published the results of its two year study into poverty in the U.K.
It found that an estimated 14.2 million people are currently living in poverty, with half of those in poverty living in persistent poverty, meaning they are currently in poverty and have been so for two out of the past three years.
This research joins a number of recent studies that have shown that poverty and inequality are both persistent problems in the U.K. For example, a Child Poverty Action Group report recently found that many families simply cannot afford a basic standard of living due to rising prices and welfare reforms.
Whilst there has been a drop in pensioner poverty, people with disabilities are much more likely to be in poverty than any other group. Just under half of all those in poverty in the U.K live in a household where one family member has a disability.
In 2016 four UN Special Rapporteurs expressed serious doubts about the compatibility of recent “welfare” reforms with the UK’s international human rights obligations. Furthermore they flagged that people with disabilities face additional inevitable costs due to their disability. The SMC metric takes the additional costs of having a disability into account, as well as the inescapable cost of child care and rent/mortgage payments.
What should be done?
In light of international Human Rights law, some of our key recommendations to the U.K Government to reduce poverty levels are as follows:
- The DWP should review the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 to restore the link between social security entitlements and the costs of living.
- The DWP should design and implement a comprehensive child poverty strategy and reinstate the targets and reporting duties on child poverty.
- HM Treasury should extend the analysis of the distributional impact of tax and public spending to look at the aggregate impact in light of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 as well as income and wealth disparities.
You can find out more about our how recent welfare reforms have impacted upon human rights in our recent submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Phillip Alston.