The number of children trapped in poverty has risen by half a million in the last five years, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The report UK Poverty 2018 examines how 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.
It says one in five of the UK population (22%) are now living in poverty – 14.3 million people. Of these, 8.2 million are working-age adults, 4.1 million are children and 1.9 million are pensioners. Eight million people live in poverty in families where at least one person is in work, it states, adding that in a typical class of 30 children nine will be living in poverty.
The charity says in-work poverty has been rising even faster than employment, with nearly all of that increased number being working parents. There are now four million workers in poverty, around one in eight in the economy, it calculates.
The reasons include parents getting stuck in low-paid work with little progression, especially in jobs in hotels, bars, restaurants and shops; gains from the National Living Wage and tax cuts being outweighed by changes to tax credits and benefits; and rising housing costs.
To stem the rise in poverty, JRF is calling for reforms to social security, housing and the jobs market. It recommends ending the freeze on benefits and tax credits and building at least 80,000 genuinely affordable homes a year. It also calls on employers to pay the real Living Wage and to train their workforce so people in low paid jobs can progress.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the JRF, said: “It’s time for us to decide what kind of country we want to be. As we leave the EU, we must tackle the burning injustice of poverty and make Britain a country that works for everyone.
“We can do this by taking action on housing, social security and work to loosen the constraints poverty places on people’s lives. No one wants to see more families being pushed over the brink.
“We have an opportunity to fix this and ensure everyone can reach a decent standard of living – it is one we must seize to make the country work for everyone after Brexit.”