Pensioner poverty ‘at record low’

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Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Pensioner poverty has fallen over the past decade but there has been a big increase in the number of younger people living in poverty, according to a new study.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) also found a huge change in the labour market, with big rises in zero hours contracts, part-time work and low-paid self employment.

Two thirds of jobless people finding work in the past year earned below the Living Wage, while only a fifth of low-paid workers found better paid jobs over the last 10 years, said the report.

The study of official government data revealed that the average self-employed worker earns 13% less than they did five years ago.

Pensioner poverty is now at the lowest level on record and the UK’s employment rate is close to a historic high, but incomes are lower than 10 years ago, and average wages for full-time male workers have fallen by £1 an hour to £12.90.

Other findings showed the number of private landlord repossessions are higher than mortgage repossessions.

The end of private rented sector tenancy is now the most common cause of homelessness, according to the study – JRF’s annual report on the state of the nation.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of JRF, said: “This year’s report shows a real change in UK society over a relatively short period of time. We are concerned that the economic recovery we face will still have so many people living in poverty. It is a risk, waste and cost we cannot afford: we will never reach our full economic potential with so many people struggling to make ends meet.

“A comprehensive strategy is needed to tackle poverty in the UK. It must tackle the root causes of poverty, such as low pay and the high cost of essentials. This research in particular demonstrates that affordable housing has to be part of the answer to tackling poverty: all main political parties need to focus now on providing more decent, affordable homes for people on low incomes.”

Tom MacInnes, of the New Policy Institute, which wrote the report, said: “This report highlights some good news on employment, but earnings and incomes are still lower than five years ago, and most people who moved from unemployment into work can only find a low paid job.

“Government has focused its efforts on welfare reform, but tackling poverty needs a wider scope, covering the job market, the costs and security of housing and the quality of services provided to people on low incomes.”

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “This report is of great concern. The number of young people in poverty is increasing. There is a generation of young people leaving school and finding themselves in low paid, zero hours contract and part time work and still below the poverty line.

“The report suggests that only a fifth of low paid employees moved on from low paid work completely 10 years later. It’s clear that access to an empowering education is vital.

“NAHT has said before that poverty does not inevitably cause educational underachievement. However it is inextricably linked to factors that also harm education. For instance, there’s now a significant proportion of families with two working parents who are sometimes working more than one job each just to make ends meet. In so doing, they find themselves ‘not quite poor enough’ to qualify for help from the system. Within the context of this report, it is these families that NAHT has particular concern for. Parents under this kind of pressure may struggle to play a fully effective role in their children’s education.

“If there is not a rapid political acknowledgement of the realities of modern poverty today’s school children face a mountain to climb if they are to exceed their parents’ achievements and build a life free from poverty for themselves. It can be done. But it can’t be done without help.

“NAHT has successfully campaigned for higher levels of funding in Early Years to pay for a higher standard of teaching and to raise attainment. All the evidence shows that the earlier you start to tackle poverty, the more lasting the outcomes.

“Whichever political party holds power after the general election, further cuts to public services remain a risk. NAHT believes that funding for education and early years should be protected, in order that the current generation of children don’t leave school to face the same low standard opportunities as we see today.”

A Government spokesman said: “The truth is, the percentage of people in the UK in relative poverty is at its lowest level since the mid-1980s and the number of households where no-one works is the lowest since records began.

“The Government’s long-term economic plan is working to deliver the fastest growing economy in the G7, putting more people into work than ever before, and reducing the deficit by more than a third.

“The only sustainable way to raise living standards is to keep working through the plan that is building a resilient economy and has enabled us to announce the first real terms increase in the minimum wage since the great recession.”

Published: Monday 24th November 2014 by The News Editor

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