Poverty: The situation’s bleak, but the future looks worse!


We all owe a debt of thanks to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for its work to reveal the depth of poverty in British society today.

The Foundation’s latest report reveals that – even by standards that have slipped since the Coalition government came into office – in-work poverty has galloped ahead of that suffered by those in workless and retired families – proving once and for all that, under the Tories and Liberal Democrats, work doesn’t pay!

But the situation is actually worse than the figures suggest, because the poverty line is always 60 per cent of average (median) income – and incomes in the UK have been dropping. Some say the average is now seven per cent lower than in 2010; others say nearly 10 per cent.

This means that, if we add in the people in working families who would be below the poverty line if it had remained at, say, 2008 levels, another two million people would be considered to be in poverty. These people are no better-off than they were before the poverty level slipped; they can’t buy more than they could before – in fact, their money goes a lot less far because inflation, even at 2.7 per cent, has hugely outstripped pay increases.

Add in the number of workless and retired families who are also in poverty – 6.3 million – and we have 15 million people in poverty in the UK today. That’s a quarter of the population of the seventh largest economy in the world.

And George Osborne wants us to congratulate him for his achievements over the past three years. Well done, George. You have conclusively proved that you are the worst Chancellor in British history – heading up the worst government in British history.

Let’s look at some of his successes:

The fall in average incomes in the last two years alone has wiped out all the gains made by Labour in the previous decade – and George has another year and a half to put people in even more serious trouble.

Worse still, incomes for the poorest 10 per cent of the population have been falling since 2004/5, because the neoliberal New Labour government did not protect them. These are the people for whom the four ‘D’s – debt, destitution, desperation and despair – will hit hardest.

The proportion of low-paid jobs increased in 2012. Remember that, when the government tells you that more people are in work than ever before. They are not telling you that these jobs keep people in poverty. They are not telling you the fact that, under the Coalition, work most certainly does not pay.

Among those in work, the number paid less than the living wage rose from 4.6 million to five million in 2012. This means 400,000 more working people are having to claim benefits to make ends meet. Work does not pay. The five million figure is one-sixth of the total workforce and includes two million people who had never previously claimed.

Meanwhile, those in benefit are being pushed into very deep poverty by sanctions, the effect of overlapping changes to social security benefits – which the government has again and again refused to measure, and the falling value of benefits due to the Chancellor’s one per cent uprating cap.

More sanction referrals were made on the unemployed between 2010 and 2012 than there are people currently claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (1.6 million, against 1.48 million claimants) – and 800,000 benefit stoppages or reductions were approved. This impacts on the government’s jobless figures, which do not include the number of jobseekers under sanction. Think about it – 800,000 is more than half the number that official figures show are out of work. Also, we know that Workfare is being stepped up, in order to fiddle the figures even more seriously.

The Bedroom Tax and council tax benefit cuts have hit 400,000 families, of whom around 267,000 families were already in poverty.

It is in this context that Iain Duncan Smith feebly attempted to distract attention away from the damning facts by telling the Telegraph that 50 families were each earning around £70,000 in benefits before his benefit cap (the £26,000-per-year, not the one per cent uprating limit) was brought in.

While this may be a shocking figure for some people, he did not provide the full details. How many people are we discussing, per family? Will the cap push them below the poverty line? Considering the facts laid out above, would a job relieve poverty for these families – or make it worse?

Smith – or ‘RTU’, as we call him here (it stands for ‘Returned To Unit’, a reference to his dismal Army career) – has yet again insisted that his diabolical changes are making the system “fair”. Anybody who repeats an assertion such as this, as often as he has, knows that nobody believes it.

Today, he is due to go before the Commons Work and Pensions Committee to account for his persistent interference with the statistics. Expect bluster and bravado but do not expect the facts.

For example, he will never admit how many people have died from the poverty caused by his assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance.

That figure alone could bring down this government.

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15 thoughts on “Poverty: The situation’s bleak, but the future looks worse!

  1. Nick

    IDS only gets away with what he does because the opposition mp’s lack the ability of those like myself who are masters in the art small detail

    what this means is that after each speech that IDS makes there is no one in the house to correct him straight after with the correct facts so therfour year after year he will be able to say what he likes knowing that he wont be corrected as no one is capable of in the house

    the same goes for the pm all of the bull being spoken have massive holes in them but without mp’s with good eduction nouthing can change

  2. psychjim

    I’ve just seen on BBC news channel that, according to them, he’s only going to be questioned on his performance with the Universal Credit rollout. Surely not? Surely their are people interested in the ATOS WCA? Or on benefit sanctioning? Or the Bedroom Tax? The man is a menace – not just a “bungling manager”. If these questions are NOT asked, then we should consider this as strong evidence of zero justice in this country!

  3. Robert Fillies

    Excellent piece Mike, let’s hope that this select committee are well prepared and inclined to give this man the grilling he deserves for the untold misery he and his policies have caused to millions of people, whether they are in receipt of in work or unable to work benefits.

  4. bob archer

    Every time i read a new blog about this most evil of governments it makes me sick. At this time of year i pray for all the downtrodden people this inhuman mob have created. I pick up on people saying when is the revolution going to start. I cant wait.

  5. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    MIke’s article here comments on the findings of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation of immense poverty amongst the working British population, apart from the unemployed, disabled and retired. The Foundation has been documenting and working to eradicate poverty since the Victorian period and the first years of the last century. It was Joseph Rowntree’s report into the grinding poverty that shocked the Liberal government into setting up the first precursors to the modern welfare state, worker’s unemployment and sickness insurance and old age pensions. Rowntree’s report was shocking because, as Winston Churchill remarked, it showed the depth of inhuman poverty at the centre of the richest country in the world. Under its impact, people began to ask how their could be such misery in a nation that possessed a vast empire, and expanding manufacturing industry, whose exports were traded and consumed all over the world. The existence of such deprivation called into question the very economic basis of British society: laissez faire free enterprise. Now, after the establishment of the welfare state, we see the Tories and Lib Dems attempting to return us to the Victorian heyday of economic liberalism. And as a consequence, grinding poverty and homelessness are also returning. It remains to be seen whether the great and the good of the second decade of the 21st century will take notice of Rowntree’s report, in the same way that their founder’s shocked and spurred their Edwardian predecessors into taking radical action. What we can count on, however, is that Cameron, Clegg and RTU Smith will continue to blame the poor and do all they can to fiddle the statistics to make the numbers of poor far less than the actually are. In the 1950s Harold MacMillan told the British people ‘You’ve never had it so good’. The same cannot truthfully be said now.

  6. Joseph Smith

    Sooner or later, ( and Enoch Powell was right) one these days we will witness people on the streets taking matters in their own hands wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if one or two ( or more) MPs, judges, senior DWP managers bank officials were executed. The anger frustration, overwhelming feelings of despair and isolation caused by this apology of a government has created is getting to very high levels I’m certain they will soon find out. Can’t help wondering if the ANC hierarchy know Cameron wanted Mandela hung as a terrorist? He’s going to the funeral.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Just one point: Cameron’s position on Mandela, individually, is not clear. We know he went on an apartheid-supporting junket to South Africa in the 1980s and that’s as far as it goes – which is bad enough!

      1. sean

        Surely claiming him as his hero now is almost proof, I mean you can tell he’s lying; his lips are moving.

    2. beastrabban

      You’re right about there being very, very high levels of popular despair and hatred against the government. I’ve met a number of people on the course I’m on at the moment who’ve joke about putting him in the stocks and wanting to kill him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were more riots ahead. I think it would be a severe mistake, however, if someone did try to assassinate a leading politician, civil servant, banker or judge. Given the extreme Right-wing tendencies of the current government, I can see them being delighted at the opportunity to crack down further on organised opposition and stifling free speech, all under the pretext of preserving national security.

      I’d also be very, very suspicious of anybody seriously advocating anything remotely resembling domestic terrorism. Quite apart from the questionable morality of political violence, there’s also the danger of a Rightist ‘strategy of tension’. In the 1970s various Fascist groups in Italy, Greece and elsewhere had a deliberate policy of infiltrating radical Left-wing groups, and gradually turning them towards violence. This was done so that sympathetic elements in the state would take the opportunity to declare a state of emergency, and suspend the democratic constitution, thus bringing about a Fascist seizure of power. One of the leading exponents was Michele della Chiaei, an Italian Fascist, who organised the infiltration of a Bakuninist Anarchist group in Italy, and the worked to set up the regime of the Colonels in Greece, before leaving Europe to lead some of the most vicious and notorious death squads in Latin America. While :I’m not saying that Cameron is a Fascist like della Chiaei, it is clear from the way Cameron has led assaults on free speech and the right to peaceful demonstrations that he would take any opportunity presented to him to stamp out ruthlessly any opposition to Tory rule.

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