scourge of poverty unchanged in May alone

  • Post last modified:June 3, 2024
  • Reading time:4 mins read

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have exposed just how dire the situation is for so many people in the UK. However, the fuller picture has been revealed from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) – and it’s calling on whatever party wins the general election to act on poverty.

The general election launch: underscored by suffering

The latest ONS statistics on how different households are experiencing inflation show that since the beginning of soaring prices in April 2021, prices have risen by around a quarter for everyone, with a slightly faster increase for those on the lowest incomes over this period. Over the year to March 2024, prices rose by 4% or over across the income distribution, with higher inflation for richer households over this period.

The figures come as JRF publishes research on the relentless reality of hardship as we enter the general election campaign.

The JRF research finds that:

  • Seven million low-income households (60%) were going without essentials in May this year.
  • Five million low-income households (42%) took fewer showers or baths due to cost during the cost-of-living crisis so far.
  • Seven in 10 (71%) low-income households in the bottom 20% were going without essentials in May this year, the same as May last year.

This comes off the back of its previous research just as Rishi Sunak announced the general election.

Entrenched poverty

As the Canary previously reported, the JRF was already sounding the alarm about poverty in the UK.

Around six million people (or 9% of the population) in the UK were in very deep poverty in 2022/23. This includes 1.6 million children, 3.9 million working-age adults, and 600,000 pensioners. Thirty years ago, around one in three people in poverty were in very deep poverty, by 2022/23 that stood at over four in 10.

Nearly four million people experienced destitution in 2022, including around one million children. This is almost two-and-a-half times the number of people experiencing destitution in 2017 and nearly triple the number of children.

Our social security system is not protecting people from destitution: 72% of people who are destitute are in receipt of benefits. Destitution is the most severe form of material hardship. Living in destitution means you can’t afford to meet your most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

So, a big part of any new government’s policy platform after the general election must be commitment to change the welfare state; making it fit for purpose for the people it’s supposed to protect.

How will the general election winner help?

Peter Matejic, chief analyst at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says:

These figures show the extent of the higher costs all families have faced over the last three years, with the highest increases for the lowest income households. These price rises have been hugely damaging and have left millions of families going without essentials like food, adequate clothing and basic toiletries.

We need our politicians to set out how they will help the millions of families who can’t afford life’s essentials during this election campaign. They must also address how they will tackle poverty and end the prolonged hardship facing too many families in our country.

So, it seems that more than many other issues, parties need to be committing to a long-term, realistic plan of how to end poverty in the UK. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen – and whether anyone will face up to it during the general election is debatable.

Featured image via Luke Pennystan on Unsplash

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