This briefing provides unique insight into the extent and nature of poverty in the UK. It uses the approach to measurement launched by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) in September 2018.

For the first time, as well as looking at incomes, this approach allows us to account for a range of inescapable costs that reduce people’s spending power, and the positive impact of people’s liquid assets on alleviating immediate poverty. These inescapable costs include rent or mortgage payments, childcare and the extra costs of disability. Liquid assets include savings, stocks and shares. The measure also takes account of overcrowding in accommodation.

As well as a more accurate reflection of a families’ ability to make ends meet, the SMC’s poverty measure tracks:

  1. The degree to which a family is below the poverty line
  2. The length of time a family is below the poverty line
  3. The experience of living in poverty.

Government action can therefore be taken on any aspect of these measures, and improvement will be visible and rewarded.

Results from the Commission’s report in September showed that:

  • 14.2 million people in the UK population live in poverty: 8.4 million working-age adults; 4.5 million children; and 1.4 million pension-age adults.
  • Over half of those in poverty (58.2%) also live in persistent poverty. This means that more than one in ten (7.7 million) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. Persistent poverty is highest in families more than 10% below the poverty line, in workless families and families where someone is disabled.
  • People with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty. Nearly half of the 14.2 million people in poverty live in families with a disabled person (6.9 million people, equal to 48.3% of those in poverty). The SMC metric recognises the inescapable costs of disability, accounting for them alongside the value of disability benefits, to reflect the lived experience of living with a disability.
  • Far fewer pensioners are living in poverty than previously thought, with a significant fall in pensioner poverty over the last 15 years. Poverty rates amongst pension-age adults have nearly halved since 2001, and have fallen to one in ten, a drop from 17% of the total population in poverty in 2001 to 11% in 2017. There are, however some pensioner groups still experiencing high levels of poverty. For example, the poverty rate for pensioners who do not own their own home is 34.2%.

Read the full briefing here: