We’re constantly reminded by the Government that record numbers of people are in work. That’s good, and to be welcomed.
New research from the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) acknowledges that growing employment and earnings have protected many working-age adults from hardship. Yet a record number of people with a job are now in poverty – and, we might add, sometimes dependent on a foodbank like ours. Statistically, that means three in five people in poverty are in a working family, compared with less than half 20 years’ ago.
Overall, JRF finds that 14 million people are in poverty in the UK – eight million adults, four million children, and two million pensioners.
What should be done? Not surprisingly, JRF calls for improved earnings for low-paid working families, an increase in the number of low-cost homes, and a stronger benefits system.
On that last point, JRF’s call for social security system dedicated to fighting poverty has particular relevance. The Trussell Trust, to which we’re affiliated, is campaigning hard to end the five week wait which the poor have to endure before getting their first Universal Credit payment.
We know that concern about this delay is shared across the political spectrum, and we can’t emphasise enough the stress and the hardship this causes. Our staff and volunteers can recount many stories of clients, literally, penniless, often being forced to take out an advance loan from the DWP which, of course, is docked off their first payment. They also hear many painful stories of clients, in receipt of Universal Credit, being sanctioned – that means having benefit cut – for what seem trivial issues. And, of course, the DWP does refer people to the foodbank!