People with disabilities are the most likely to be living in poverty, while “far fewer” pensioners are living in poverty than had previously been estimated.
These are the findings of a new independent body, the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), established to develop a new approach to measuring poverty.
For the first time ‘unavoidable costs’ are included in poverty analysis such as childcare, housing costs and costs brought about by disability, which reduce an individual’s spending power.
It also takes into account the positive impact of ‘liquid assets’ like savings and stocks and shares. Previous metrics have focused too heavily on income alone.
The research shows that there are currently 14.2 million people living in poverty in the UK today. This includes 8.4 million working age adults and 4.5 million children.
The number of pensioners living in poverty now only stands at 1.4 million. 17% of pensioners lived in poverty in 2001, but this has fallen in the last 15 years to 11%.
Pensioners who do not own their own homes experience a far higher rate of poverty – estimated at more than a third (34%).
Improvements in poverty are not being seen amongst disabled people – the group most likely to be struggling financially.
Approximately half of 14.2 million people considered to be living in poverty have a disabled person in their family, the SMC research found. This means poverty levels for disabled people were higher than previously thought.
Those working for the new commission say the improved metrics would make it easier for government to understand poverty and target help at those who need it.
David Hutchison, chief executive of Social Finance and SMC commissioner, says: “What do we mean by living in poverty? Five people living in one room because they can’t afford any more space. Falling behind on household bills with no savings to rely on. Not being able to go out to work because childcare costs are too high.
“If we are serious about supporting vulnerable people, we need to understand what drives them into poverty and what keeps them there. This new measure is a bold attempt to understand the characteristics of those who face the challenge that their resources fall short of the inescapable costs of daily life.
“It is a critical step if we are to change the way we tackle poverty in the UK.”