Poverty, unemployment and repossessions on the rise years before recession began

report released today (3 December) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, produced by the New Policy Institute, shows that levels of poverty, unemployment and repossessions in the UK started rising as early as 2004, long before the recession began. These findings mean that in order to reduce the number of people living in poverty by any serious margin, the UK needs to recover not just from the recession, but from deep-seated problems that were re-emerging before the downturn.

Monitoring poverty and social exclusion, produced by the New Policy Institute, is the JRF’s annual assessment of poverty in the UK. Built around a set of indicators and constructed using the latest official government data, the report assesses a wide range of subjects including unemployment, education, and health. It found that 2004-5 marked a key turning point, with poverty, unemployment and repossessions all starting to rise:

  • poverty is now back at the same level as 2000; having risen every year since 2004/05;
  • two million children are in low-income, working households - the highest figure since records began;
  • unemployment bottomed in 2005 and now nearly 1 in 8 people of working age want but lack a job; the highest since 1997;
  • repossessions are six times the level of 2004 and are now back at the level they were in 1994.

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the JRF, said:

"Today's report highlights the scale of the challenge the government faces if it is to reduce poverty significantly in the UK. Although there was success in reversing long-term adverse trends in the first half of the last decade, the re-emergence of these problems indicates that poverty cannot be solved with short-term, reactive solutions."

Not all the indicators in the report are negative however. Over the last decade, progress has been made on a number of social problems:

  • fear of crime has fallen;
  • minimum levels of educational attainment have risen for 11- and 16-year-olds;
  • the rate of premature deaths is falling;
  • infant mortality has fallen across all social groups; and
  • school exclusions have fallen.

Dr. Peter Kenway, co-author of the report, said:

"Looking across the whole range of subjects covered in this report, there is much in the government's record that is positive. But on the core subjects of low income and employment, the picture is bleak. In particular, it is not just a question of 'recovering from the recession' since things started going seriously wrong as long ago as 2004."

Tom MacInnes, co-author of the report, said:

"We approach a General Election with both the main political parties claiming to be best placed to help people experiencing poverty. What this report shows is just how serious their commitment will need to be if they really hope to have any lasting effect".