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300,000 more pensioners living in poverty

Published on 04 December 2017 11:51 AM

Britain's record on tackling poverty has reached a turning point and is at risk of unravelling, following the first sustained rises in pensioner and child poverty for two decades, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Almost 300,000 more pensioners and 400,000 more children are now living in poverty than in 2012/13. Since that year, there have been continued increases in poverty, across both age groups. Very little progress has been made in reducing poverty among working-age adults too.

The warning comes in a state of the nation report by the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the leading authority on poverty in the UK. UK Poverty 2017 examines how UK poverty has changed over the last 20 years, providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the challenges and prospects facing low income families in modern Britain.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, emphasised how worrying the current situation is. He said: 'Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet. This is a very real warning sign that our hard-fought progress is in peril.

'Action to tackle child and pensioner poverty has provided millions of families with better living standards and financial security. However record employment is not leading to lower poverty, changes to benefits and tax credits are reducing incomes and crippling costs are squeezing budgets to breaking point. The Budget offered little to ease the strain and put low income households' finances on a firmer footing.

'As we prepare to leave the EU, we have to make sure that our country and our economy works for everyone and doesn't leave even more people behind.'

Rising pensioner poverty

In 1994/95, 28% of pensioners lived in poverty, falling to 13% in 2011/12 - a fall achieved by extra help for poorer pensioners.

Following the financial crisis of 2007/8 poverty rates remained stable. A combination of benefit policies and spells of low inflation helped negate the worst effects of the downturn for the least well-off pensioners.

But changes to welfare policy - especially since the 2015 Budget – are reducing households' financial breathing space.

Pensioner poverty rates rose to 16% last year suggesting previous progress tackling poverty is at risk of being lost without immediate action. 14 million people live in poverty in the UK – over one in five of the population - including 1.9 million pensioners.

Without government action, pensioner poverty could continue to rise

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, agreed that these signs of rising pensioner poverty are extremely worrying.

She said: 'With one in six pensioners (around 1.9 million) now living in poverty, not including the many thousands more who are just above this threshold and still struggling to make ends meet, the Government clearly needs to do far more. Unless action is taken quickly, poverty among the older generation could continue to escalate, undermining all of the progress that's been made following the introduction of measures such as the pension credit and triple lock.

'Clearly the time for complacency is over and there can be no doubt that, given the current situation, the state pension remains a vital tool in the fight against pensioner poverty, giving millions of older people a small element of financial security in an increasingly uncertain world.

£3.5 billion of money benefits for older people still go unclaimed

Abrahams continued: 'It's hard to believe but despite such high number of pensioners living in and just above the poverty line, as much as £3.5 billion in money benefits remains unclaimed by older people every year.

'We would urge any older person who is worried about money to get in touch with Age UK by calling our advice line free of charge on 0800 169 6565 or visiting for free information and advice. Claiming the benefits that they're entitled to could make a big difference to their income.'

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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