Poverty in the United Kingdom

Poverty in the United Kingdom

:"This article is about poverty within the population of the United Kingdom as distinct from UK policy on world poverty."

The United Kingdom is a developed country and, as such, the population suffers the severe privations of those in the developing world to a far lesser extent and arguably - due to the significantly more advanced social infrastructure (health services, welfare and so on) - hardly at all. As such, discussions surrounding poverty in the United Kingdom tend to be of relative poverty rather than absolute poverty.

How poverty in the United Kingdom is defined and measured

Poverty is defined by the Government as ‘household income below 60 per cent of median income’. The median is the income earned by the household in the middle of the income distribution. [ [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/search/?s=poverty+%22income+less+than%22 They Work For You] ]

In the year 2004/2005, the 60% threshold was worth £183 per week for a two adult household, £100 per week for a single adult, £268 per week for two adults living with two children, and £186 per week for a single adult living with two children. This sum of money is after income tax and national insurance have been deducted from earnings and after council tax, rent, mortgage and water charges have been paid. It is therefore what a household has available to spend on everything else it needs. [ [http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/key_facts.htm Poverty.org.uk] ]

Consider also:

"There are basically three current definitions of poverty in common usage: absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion.

Absolute poverty is defined as the lack of sufficient resources with which to keep body and soul together.

Relative poverty defines income or resources in relation to the average. It is concerned with the absence of the material needs to participate fully in accepted daily life.

Social exclusion is a new term used by the Government. The Prime Minister described social exclusion as "…a shorthand label for what can happen when individuals or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime environments, bad health and family breakdown". - House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/education/ms/wealth/def_of_poverty/definitions.shtml BBC website] ]

Other forms of poverty

Water poverty is defined by the Government as spending more than 3% of disposable income on water bills. Nationally, in 2006, nearly 10% of households were in water poverty. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2006-03-15b.1458.0&s=%22water+poverty%22#g1458.1 They Work For You] ]

Fuel poverty. A fuel poor household is one that struggles to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost. The most widely accepted definition of a fuel poor household is one which needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat the home to an adequate standard of warmth. This is generally defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in the other occupied rooms. [ [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-10-18a.93778.h They Work For You] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6178820.stm BBC website] ]

Causes of poverty

*Disability - Disabled adults are twice as likely to live in low income households as non-disabled adults. [http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/key_facts.htm]
*Mental illness
*Being born to poor parents
* Being a lone parent - half of all lone parents are on a low income. [ [http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/key_facts.htm Poverty.org.uk] ]

Current/recent figures

*17-18% of the population are found to be in poverty at any one time consistently, from 1994-2004. "Source: BBC News" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/05/business_uk_poverty/html/1.stm BBC website] ]

*21% of children live in a poverty stricken household before housing costs are taken into account, 28% after housing costs are included. [ [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-06-20.807.h They Work For You] ]

*3.9 million number of single people in the UK living below the poverty line in 2005. Many of these people are divorced women. (Poverty among single people is not as high profile as that suffered by families and pensioners). "Source: The Elizabeth Finn Trust/BBC News" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4245984.stm BBC website] ]

*Nearly 60% of those in poverty are homeowners. "Source: BBC News" [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4081596.stm BBC website] ]

Comparisons with other countries

Percentage of people living below 60% median income (ascending order):Source: Luxembourg Income Study & J.Hills/BBC News [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/05/business_comparing_welfare_states/html/1.stm BBC website] ]

Historical measurements of poverty

Seebohm Rowntree chose a basic 'shopping basket' of foods (identical to the rations given in the local workhouse), clothing and housing needs - anyone unable to afford them was deemed to be in poverty. By 1950, with the founding of the modern welfare state, the 'shopping basket' measurement had been abandoned.

The vast and overwhelming majority of people that fill the government's current criteria for poverty status (see above) have goods unimaginable to those in poverty in 1900. Poverty in the developed world is often one of perception; people compare their wealth with neighbours and wider society, not with their ancestors or those in foreign countries. Indeed this is formalised in the government's measure of poverty. A number of studies have shown that though prosperity in the UK has greatly increased, the level of happiness people report has remained the same or even decreased since the 1950s [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/4771908.stm BBC website] ] [ [http://society.guardian.co.uk/mentalhealth/story/0,,1497819,00.html "Guardian" website] .]

External link: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/business/05/breadlinebritain/html/default.stm A history of milestones - BBC] , information on historical measurements of poverty.

ee also

*Income in the United Kingdom

Viewpoints of major political parties

Labour Party

The leader of the incumbent Labour Government, Tony Blair vowed in 1999 to cut child poverty 25% by 2005, 50% by 2010 and to eradicate child poverty completely by 2020.

The Labour Party website states:

"In 1997 Labour inherited one of the highest rates of child poverty in Europe – with one in three children living in poverty. Our mission to abolish child poverty is grounded both in our determination to secure social justice, and to tackle the problems that the social exclusion of children builds up for the long-term. Work is the best route out of poverty and our successful welfare to work measures have lifted millions out of poverty including disabled people, who have too often previously been consigned to a life on benefits. At the same time, millions of families are benefiting from the Child tax credit, the Working tax credit, and record rises in Child benefit." [http://www.labour.org.uk/familiesandchildren04]

Their 2005 manifesto [ [http://www.labour.org.uk/fileadmin/manifesto_13042005_a3/pdf/manifesto.pdf Labour Party manifesto (PDF)] ] states:

" [Since the Labour government came to power in 1997] there are two million fewer children and nearly two million fewer pensioners living in absolute poverty."

In a report covering only the East of England, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that in 2004/2005, 22% of children in the East of England lived in families on low incomes. This compares to the 26% of children in low income families in 1998/1999, showing child poverty had been reduced. The JRF noted that the Government had missed its official target of reducing child poverty by a quarter between 1998/1999 and 2004/2005.

Conservative Party

In late November 2006, the Conservative Party garnered headlines across the press when a senior member spoke out on poverty (an issue not usually regarded as a Tory concern) and invoking the name of Polly Toynbee (a name generally anathema to Conservative supporters).

The headlines began when Cameron's policy advisor and shadow minister Greg Clark wrote:

"The traditional Conservative vision of welfare as a safety net encompasses another outdated Tory nostrum - that poverty is absolute, not relative. Churchill's safety net is at the bottom: holding people at subsistence level, just above the abyss of hunger and homelessness. It is the social commentator Polly Toynbee who supplies imagery that is more appropriate for Conservative social policy in the twenty first century." [ [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/story/0,,1953914,00.html Cameron told: it's time to ditch Churchill | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics ] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6171678.stm BBC NEWS | Politics | Toynbee not Churchill, Tory says ] ]
This provocative approach generated much comment and analysis; [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6172226.stm BBC analysis] , [http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/polly_toynbee/2006/11/pt.html Polly Toynbee's reaction in The Guardian] , [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1954548,00.html reaction of Conservatives generally thought to be on the right,in the Guardian] ), [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/conservatives/comment/0,,1953936,00.html Guardian analysis] , [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2468741,00.html Times editorial] ).

It was followed two days later by Cameron saying poverty should be seen in relative terms to the rest of society, where people lack those things which others in society take for granted, "those who think otherwise are wrong [...] I believe that poverty is an economic waste, a moral disgrace. [...] We will only tackle the causes of poverty if we give a bigger role to society, tackling poverty is a social responsibility [...] Labour rely too heavily on redistributing money, and on the large, clunking mechanisms of the state." [http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1956260,00.html]

A link at the Conservative Party website's policy page ( [http://www.conservatives.com/tile.do?def=policy.home.page link] ) labelled "Social Justice Challenge" takes one to an external blog named "Poverty Debate" ( [http://povertydebate.typepad.com/ site] ), which is not branded as an element of the Party website but states that "The Social Justice Challenge is chaired by Iain Duncan Smith [http://povertydebate.typepad.com/home/2006/01/who_are_we.html] .

Liberal Democrats

Menzies Campbell referred to the "need to wage war on poverty" at the 2006 Spring conference.

The Liberal Democrats say Labour:

"must completely overhaul the weapons it uses. The way in which tax credits and benefits are being used, with little or no attention paid to housing, health and education, is creating a state of dependency.

"The Government must fundamentally rethink how it tackles child poverty. Gordon Brown's unwillingness to admit and address failures in the tax credit system is undermining the wider aims of the Government.

"We now have a system where two million people face an effective tax rate above 50%. A single mum on minimum wage can receive just 36p per hour. If we are to truly create opportunity for all we must make work pay.

"Although the Government has had some success, particularly in reducing the number of children in poverty, they have already missed their first target by some 300,000." [http://www.libdems.org.uk/economy/story.html?id=11081]

Pressure/interest groups

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation ( [http://www.jrf.org.uk site] ) is one of the largest social policy research and development charities in the UK and takes particular interest in the issue of poverty, with over 100 reports on poverty and disadvantage available on its website ( [http://www.jrf.org.uk/bookshop/publications.asp?grouping=Poverty+and+disadvantage external link to report listing] ).

The Child Poverty Action Group ( [http://www.cpag.org.uk/ site] ) campaigns for the elimination of poverty amongst children.

End Child Poverty coalition ( [http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/ site] ) also seeks the eradication of child poverty.


External links

News specials

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/business/2005/breadline_britain/default.stm Breadline Britain - the welfare state 60 years on] - BBC News, 2006
**Contains a number of items, current and historical, relating to poverty.
* [http://society.guardian.co.uk/socialexclusion/0,,630068,00.html Social Exclusion] - The Guardian, updated regularly.
**Current and archived news on social exclusion.

Government reports

"The Department for Work and Pensions ( [http://www.dwp.gov.uk/ official site] ) is responsible for policy relating to social welfare and tends to take the lead in addressing or contributing to poverty."
* [http://www.dwp.gov.uk/ofa/related/final_conclusions.pdf "Measuring Child Poverty." PDF] - Department of Work and Pensions, December 2003
* [http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rports2005-2006/rrep363.pdf "Understanding older people’s experiences of poverty and material deprivation." PDF] - DWP, July 2006

Government debates (most recent first)

* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2006-07-04a.183.0 Child poverty debate] - Westminster Hall, July 4, 2006.
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2002-02-06a.639.4 Poverty debate] - House of Lords, February 6, 2002.
* [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2001-03-15a.1057.0 Student poverty debate] - House of Lords, March 15, 2001.

tatistics provided by Government ministers

"This is a collection of links to statistics available at the site" TheyWorkForYou [http://www.theyworkforyou.com external link] "the relevant content of which is sourced from Hansard."

Child poverty

*Number and percentage of children living in poverty, in each year, 1979-2004. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-06-20.807.h]

*Number and percentage of children living in poverty, in each year, 1979-2004 before and after housing costs. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-02-21.214019.h]

*Percentage of children living in poverty in working or workless households, 2003-04. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-01-23d.41291.h]

*Proportion of children in families with (a) a lone parent, (b) married parents or stepparents and (c) cohabiting parents or stepparents in poverty, 2004-05. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-03-20c.57840.h]

*Number and percentage of children living in poverty, 1997-2004. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-02-07a.43814.h]

*Northern Ireland: children living in the province estimated to be living in poverty, broken down by (a) Northern Ireland local government district and (b) parliamentary constituency, 2002/04. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-02-16a.49390.h]

Pensioner poverty

*Number and percentage of pensioners living in poverty from 1979-2004. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-02-09a.214028.h]

*Pensioners in poverty 1994-2003, broken down by region. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-10-19a.93871.h]

Rural poverty

*Rural poverty, 2002. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2003-03-24.104155.h]


*Percentage of children and adults living in poverty both before and after housing costs from 1995-2005. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-07-24c.85971.h]

*Poverty among (a) pensioners, (b) the unemployed, (c) disabled and (d) others in 1996/97 and 2003/04. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-06-20.918.h]


*The average weekly income for a) the lowest earning 40% and b) the highest earning 40% in England as a whole and the South West in particular for 1996/97-1998/99 and 2002/03-2004/05. [http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2006-06-12a.69136.h]

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