Turning the tide on persistent poverty
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recently produced a comprehensive new report on UK Poverty in 2022. This substantial work takes a look at trends in poverty across all its characteristics and impacts. The effects of the global Coronavirus pandemic are not yet fully known, and while the economy is now getting back to pre-pandemic levels, the picture at the individual and family levels can be markedly different, with some people falling further behind. The effect of a rapidly-growing economy, making up for the large economic shock of the pandemic, is increasing inflation leading to higher prices and interest rate rises to help bring it back under control.
A key part of how poverty is defined revolves around the ability to participate in society, and having an income to meet the costs of living is integral to this participation. Financial hardship affects every decision on a daily basis, with current talk of having to choose between heating and eating an all too real experience for many people. A very worrying statistic in the report shows a 35% rise in destitution in 2019 over 2017, now affecting over a million households. Poverty is shown to have a negative impact on people’s health outcomes and educational attainment levels. With education a very important factor in people’s ability to improve their life chances, persistent poverty presents a self-perpetuating cycle that it becomes very hard to break.
The unavoidable costs of housing, food, energy and clothing make up a much larger proportion of the budgets of those with the smallest incomes, which makes them very vulnerable to any changes in these basic costs. Those least able to cope, with no access to savings, credit or family help, will suffer disproportionately when they rise. The current energy crisis, with its impending large increases to basic bills when the energy price cap rises dramatically in April, coupled with general high inflation across life’s other necessities is set to hit hard those already living in poverty and no doubt drive more people into poverty and food insecurity, which is linked to chronic health problems. With further global uncertainty fuelled by the current situation in Ukraine, the coming year will present many challenges in combatting poverty.
There can be no doubt that for families in deep poverty, struggling to meet life’s very basic necessities, having access to digital devices, let alone to the data necessary to use them effectively is going to be well beyond reach. Yet digital inequality will perpetuate poverty and continue to blight people’s life chances and ability to improve their circumstances. Getting devices out to those in desperate need of them, along with access to data, is more important than ever, giving some control back to those who feel that they have very little control over what is happening to them.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is a social change organisation that works to solve UK poverty, and has comprehensively examined the situation across the UK in its report. While the Government plays a major role, it is also up to all of us, individuals, companies and organisations, to play our part in breaking the cycle of deprivation to help lift people out of poverty.
Sue Gowling 17/02/22