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1 July, 2020 Open access

More than four million people live in families experiencing ‘deep poverty’ while more than half of those are also in ‘persistent poverty’

New Social Metrics Commission report also warns that initial research on the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 show they are likely to be ‘profound’

More than four million people live in families experiencing ‘deep poverty’ while more than half of those are also in ‘persistent poverty’, according to the Social Metrics Commission.

In Social Metrics Commission: 2020 Report, the Commission provides an analysis of poverty rates based on data collected between April 2018 and March 2019 and initial findings from research into the likely economic and social impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on poverty in the future, saying in the foreword to the report that - 

‘… the results within this report will act as the baseline against which the impact of the coronavirus crisis can be judged. In this respect they show that, even before the crisis, there were significant disparities in experiences for individuals and families right across the UK.’

Key findings for the period before the pandemic show that -

In addition, the Commission sets out findings on the economic and social impacts of the coronavirus crisis - from research conducted with around 80,000 people polled between March and May 2020 into how the crisis has impacted on their financial situation, their attitudes towards society and experiences of loneliness and the extent to which they are confident about the future - which include that -

As a result, while the Commission highlights that the full scale of the impacts from the COVID-19 crisis are yet to be felt, and cannot yet be measured, it warns that-

‘What we do know from existing analysis, including original analysis in this report, is that the impact is likely to be profound.’

Commenting on the report, Chair of the Social Metrics Commission Philippa Stroud said -

‘It is extremely concerning that the proportion of people experiencing deep poverty has risen since the millennium, through governments of all colour, and is likely to continue to increase as the country struggles with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Our analysis indicates a picture where, over the last 20 years, rising employment rates for those in poverty were helping families move out of deep poverty, so they were more likely to be able to escape poverty in the future. A reversal of this employment success story will likely lead to many of those already experiencing poverty moving into deeper poverty. Supporting employment, especially for those on the lowest incomes, must remain a key priority of government.

The Commission’s analysis of those in deep poverty also demonstrates the importance of looking beyond previous headline poverty measures to ensure that all those living in poverty are not viewed as a single group. Poverty is more likely to be experienced by some families than others, and the nature of that experience is also incredibly varied. The causes and implications of these various types and experiences of poverty are different, which means the approach needed to tackle them will be different.’

For more information, see Social Metrics Commission: 2020 Report from