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13 January, 2021 Open access

Response to Covid-19 pandemic should be measured by ‘how just and compassionate it is to people in poverty’, says Joseph Rowntree Foundation

New annual report on poverty in the UK calls on government to strengthen benefit system by, at a miminum, retaining universal credit and tax credit uplift and extending it to legacy benefits

The UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic should be measured by 'how just and compassionate it is to people in poverty', the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has said.

Introducing UK Poverty 2020/2021 - the latest edition of its annual report on the nature and scale of poverty across the UK, and how it affects people struggling to stay afloat - the JRF says that -

'This report is being published in the midst of the coronavirus storm – a turbulent time when all of us have felt insecurity and instability. But our analysis shows too many of us entered the pandemic already at risk of being cast adrift into poverty, while often lacking secure housing, a reliable income or adequate support. It also shows that those of us already struggling to keep our heads above water have often been hit the hardest. Our response to the pandemic should be measured by how just and compassionate it is to people in poverty, whether they were already experiencing hardship or have been swept into it.'

Highlighting that, before Covid-19, more than 14 million people in the UK were caught up in poverty - equating to more than one in five people - and that child poverty and in-work poverty had been on the rise for several years, the JRF finds that many of those groups already struggling most to stay afloat have also borne the brunt of the economic and health impacts of the pandemic, including -

The JRF goes on to say that, while it cannot be sure what happened to overall poverty levels in the first phase of the coronavirus outbreak when the furlough scheme and temporary benefit uplift were both in place, it is clear that poverty will increase if this government support is removed from April 2021.

As a result, the JRF calls on the government to 'continue to be bold and compassionate' as it decides how to redesign policies on work, social security and housing so that they work better for everyone after coronavirus.

In particular, the JRF says that -

For more information, see UK Poverty 2020/2021 from