A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks at the impact of Covid-19 on the UK's level of poverty. The analysis shows that too many of us entered the pandemic already at risk of being cast adrift into poverty; with issues such as lacking secure housing, a reliable income or adequate support being widespread. It explains how, even before coronavirus, incomes were falling – and falling fastest – for people with the lowest incomes.
The report finds that there are certain groups who are at a disproportionate risk of being pulled into poverty by the pandemic. These groups include part-time workers, low-paid workers, Black, Asian and minority ethnic households, lone parents – mostly women, private renters and those who live in certain areas of the UK where there were already higher levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation.
Alongside its key findings, the report presents insights gathered from the JRF's Grassroots Poverty Action Group. Key issues highlighted across their sessions were the effect of poverty on mental health (be it the cause or effect of poverty) and how the debilitating reality of severe mental health issues can make it impossible to navigate the help they need to get themselves and their family vital support.
Individuals from the group fed back that it often felt impossible to move out of poverty, with conversations highlighting many of the known issues with the social security system. While the Universal Credit Uplift had been welcomed it was outstripped for many by the combination of higher costs and a loss of earnings. Many had fears of falling deeper into poverty. Participants repeatedly cited the role of the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment in forcing many into debt.
The long-term effects of the outbreak on poverty are uncertain but will critically depend on how the outbreak affects five economic factors – employment, earnings, benefits, housing costs and inflation, as well as UK and devolved governments’ responses in each of these areas.
You can read the full report here.