AUSTERITY and spiralling housing costs have pushed a further 400,000 children and 300,000 pensioners into poverty over the past four years, a charity’s report suggests.
More than 14million people now live in poverty, which is classed as less than 60 per cent of average income, the Joseph Roundtree Foundation (JRF) added.
It said Britain was at a ‘turning point’ after the first sustained rise in the figures for 20 years.
The report comes as the social mobility czar Alan Milburn resigned, along with his fellow board members, saying there was ‘little hope’ of fixing the problem because the government was fixated on Brexit.
‘There’s only so long you can go on pushing water uphill,’ Mr Milburn added. ‘The government as a whole, it’s become increasingly obvious, simply doesn’t have a plan to tackle the searing divides that scar the nation.’
The JRF singled out higher food and energy bills, housing costs, along with the four-year freeze on tax credits and working age benefits among the chief causes.
Its chief executive Campbell Robb said: ‘Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more
people are struggling to make ends meet. The Budget offered little to ease the strain and put low income households’ finances on a firmer footing.’
An estimated 4million children — nearly a third of the total — are in poverty, along with 1.9million OAPs.
It equates to £297 a week after housing costs for a single parent with two children aged five and 14, or £144 for a single person with no dependents.
Child poverty will rise until at least 2022, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has said. The JRF, which is calling for more affordable homes, warned those on low incomes are not saving for a pension and ‘more older people are likely to rent and have higher housing costs in retirement’.
The Department for Work and Pensions said it was spending an extra £4.2billion supporting pensioners, carers and the disabled in 2018 and still spends £90billion a year on those of working age. Since 2010 ‘people in absolute poverty has fallen by over half a million,’ it added.
But Shadow works and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said wage stagnation and cuts, combined with rising cost of household essentials, was a ‘terrifying prospect for millions’.