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Largest UK poverty study calls on government to tackle rising deprivation

19 June 2014

The percentage of households who fall below society’s minimum standard of living has increased from 14 per cent to 33 per cent over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling. This is one of the stark findings from the largest study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK.

The percentage of households who fall below society’s minimum standard of living has increased from 14 per cent to 33 per cent over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling. This is one of the stark findings from the largest study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK.

Other key figures reveal that almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions; 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities; one in three people cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in the winter and four million children and adults aren’t properly fed by today’s standards.

The Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project, led by the University of Bristol and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC]), has shown that full-time work is not always sufficient to escape from poverty and calls on the government to take action.

Experts will discuss the findings, looking at trends from the past 30 years, and how best to tackle the problems at the 3rd Peter Townsend Memorial Conference which begins in London today [19 June].

Researchers from the University of Bristol, Heriot-Watt University, the Open University, Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow, University of Oxford, University of Birmingham, University of York, the National Centre for Social Research and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency found that:

  • About 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing.
  • Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.
  • Around 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home.
  • One in four adults have incomes below what they consider is needed to avoid poverty.
  • One in every six (17 per cent) adults in paid work are poor.
  • More than one in five adults have had to borrow in the last year to pay for day to day needs.

The PSE standard of living survey results show that more than one in every five (22 per cent) children and adults were poor at the end of 2012. They had both a low income and were also ‘multiply deprived’ - suffering from three or more deprivations such as lack of food, heating and clothing due to a lack of money. 

Far more households are in arrears on their household bills in 2012 (21 per cent) than in 1999 (14 per cent).  The most common bills in arrears now are utility bills, council tax and mortgage/rent.

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