The Social Metrics Commission releases new measure of UK poverty

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Photo by Tyrone Daryl CC BY 2.0
28 September, 2018


The new measurement looks beyond income, accounting for a range of essential costs that reduce people’s spending power such as rent, mortgage payments, childcare and disability costs.

These are measured against the positive impact of people’s liquid assets on alleviating immediate poverty. These include savings and – where relevant – stocks and shares.

According to the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), the measurement is more accurate in reflecting the realities and experiences of living in poverty than previous measures.

There is no agreed UK government measure of poverty and the SMC’s aim is to provide a new consensus on poverty measurement that enables action, informs policy making and thereby improves the lives of people in poverty in real ways.

According to the measure, the total number of people in poverty is 14.2 million with the composition of poverty moving towards a better identification of children (4.5 million) and working-age adults (8.4 million). It also shows there has been a significant reduction of poverty amongst pension age couples over the last 15 years.

People with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty than previously thought, with around half of the 14.2 million people in poverty living in families with a disabled person.

The report also reveals the persistence and depth of UK poverty. More than one in ten (12.1 percent) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. A further 2.5 million people – those 'Just About Managing' – live less than 10 percent above the poverty line and are close to falling below it with relatively small changes to their circumstances; and around 2.7 million people live less than 10 percent below it.

Voscur is on the Board of Bristol's City Funds, a cross-sector initiative in Bristol that aims to address key local priorities  linked to poverty, such child hunger. Measuring poverty is important in allowing us to understand the scale and profile of such challenges and plan how we might overcome them.

The SMC is a rigorously non-partisan organisation. Its membership is drawn from top UK poverty thinkers from different political and professional backgrounds, alongside data and analytics experts and those with experience of working with and supporting people living in poverty.

For more information on City Funds click here.

For more information on the Social Metrics Commission, click here.

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