The SNP has warned the UK government it must ensure coronavirus jobs support continues for as long as required or the UK will see a significant rise in poverty – after new research reveals many could fall into, or move further into, poverty due to their changing employment status.
Research from the Social Metrics Commission found that all people in poverty – particularly those classed as in “deep poverty”, meaning they lived at least 50% below the breadline – had been far more likely to suffer reduced incomes since lockdown, increasing the risk that the pandemic would drive a “significant” increase in the incidence and severity of poverty.
Many of those already in poverty could move deeper into poverty as a result of losing their jobs, or having lower earnings because of reduced hours or pay – exacerbating the already increasing trend in deep poverty seen over the last 20 years. Those previously close to, but above, the poverty line could move into poverty by their changing employment status – resulting in a significant increase in poverty overall.
The report also highlights the importance of measuring, tracking and reporting on poverty to fully understand the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis and how policymakers should respond.
The SNP’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has said the UK government must re-establish UK-wide child poverty targets well as the Commission reporting on their progress and strengthen welfare protections. This includes increasing Child Tax Credits and the child element of Universal Credit by £20, removing the two-child cap and associated rape clause, scrapping the five-week wait and making advance payments grants not loans, and increasing legacy benefits in line with Universal Credit.
Commenting, Neil Gray MP said:
“This report makes clear that it is critical the UK government continues coronavirus jobs support schemes for as long as necessary or we will see a drastic rise in poverty. If it ends the schemes early, it will once again be the poorest that are hit the hardest – just like the impact of Brexit.
“14.5 million people in the UK are living in poverty, of which at least 4.5 million are children and 7.1 million have lived below the breadline for at least two of the last three years. That shows that this has been a problem for decades and is only being exacerbated by Brexit and Covid-19. Successive UK governments have repeatedly failed to address this issue, with the Tories making it worse with their decade of austerity cuts.
“Instead of repeating mistakes and following the status quo – the Tories could learn the lessons coronavirus has given us and use this opportunity to do what needs to be done to properly address rising poverty in the UK and secure decent futures for generations to come. The UK government must follow Scotland – who have the lowest poverty rates in the UK – and rebuild a social security net based on dignity and respect.
“A good start would be to first address the disgracefully high levels of child poverty by increasing Child Tax Credits and the child element of Universal Credit by £20, scrapping the two-child cap and associated rape clause, and re-establishing child poverty targets. Children should not have to suffer because of the incompetence of UK governments.”