Britain's Child and Pensioner Poverty Rate Is Rising at an Alarming Rate

Britain's battle against deprivation is in "peril," a think tank has warned, with poverty rates rising among some groups, while the poor are badly equipped to improve their situation.

Benefits cuts, rising housing costs, and an unequal education system all share part of the blame.

The U.K. Poverty 2017 report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank found that "Over the last 20 years the U.K. succeeded in reducing poverty significantly among those groups who had traditionally been at most risk—pensioners and some types of families with children."

But, it said, "In more recent years, poverty rates have started to rise again among both pensioners and families with children."

Broadwater Farm Estate
A person hangs laundry to dry outside an apartment on the Broadwater Farm estate in north London, Britain, December 30, 2015. A think tank has warned that Britain is going backward on tackling poverty. Peter Nicholls/Reuters

About two decades ago, one third of children were living in poverty, along with 28 percent of pensioners. By the year 2011/12, these figures had dropped, to 27 percent and 13 percent respectively.

But more people in both groups are now seriously struggling, with the poverty rate among children at 30 percent, and among pensioners at 16 percent.

Meanwhile, the report warns, many people growing up or living in poverty lack prospects for escaping it in future.

"The prospects for solving U.K. poverty are worrying," the report said. "Changes to benefits and tax credits for working-age families are reducing the incomes of many of those on low incomes."

"High housing costs" can leave poorer people struggling to make ends meet, with less money to spend on other important resources, the report said.

Meanwhile, a "squeeze in living standards [is] storing up problems for the future." Rising inflation bites harder for those on lower incomes, the report found, and "most people on low incomes have no savings and are not building up a pension."

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: "These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty.

"Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet.

"This is a very real warning sign that our hard-fought progress is in peril. As we prepare to leave the EU, we have to make sure that our country and our economy works for everyone and doesn't leave even more people behind."