Politicians must outline plans to tackle rising poverty levels

As Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak gear up for their debate this evening, ahead of the next General Election, calls are being made for party leaders to address rising poverty levels in England.

At 9pm tonight, Tuesday 4th June 2024, Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are going head-to-head in the first televised debate in the run-up to the General Election. The event will be broadcast on ITV and hosted by news presenter Julie Etchingham who will be firing questions about the party leaders manifesto in front of a live audience. However, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a leading poverty charity in the UK, are calling on the politicians to pay particular attention to rising poverty levels following the charities new research.

person sitting beside white sack

According to JRF, 3.2 million people in the UK are a mere £40 a week from being in poverty, which is equivalent to the entire population of Wales. This statistic includes 700,000 children, 1.5 million working age adults and one million pensioners.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, the research also shows 900,000 of these people are only £10 a week away from hitting poverty levels. This includes 0.2 million children, 0.4 million working age adults and 0.3 million pensioners. These harrowing statistics are on top of the 14.4 million people already in poverty in the UK.

Paul Kissack, CEO of the JRF, said: ‘Such high levels of hardship – with millions experiencing poverty and millions more teetering on the edge of it – are a stain on the moral conscience of our nation.

‘It has been six prime ministers since this country last made sustained progress on reducing poverty. During that time we’ve seen a sustained rise in the number of people in deep poverty, with hardship and destitution growing even faster. Whoever is Prime Minister after July 4th must make reversing this dismal trend a priority.’

The charities research outlined it has been 20 years since the last prolonged period of falling poverty. In May 2024, seven million households reported that they had gone without essentials like showers, toiletries or adequate clothing in the last six months, or had gone hungry or cut or skipped meals in the last 30 days.

‘Our political leaders must be specific and ambitious about how they will tackle poverty. But so far there hasn’t been anything like the level of urgency from either Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer that we need to see. Pointing to future growth as a panacea just won’t cut it,’ Paul said. ‘Tonight’s debate is a chance for both leaders to set out their plans and demonstrate they are serious about addressing hardship. Failure to act is a political and moral choice – and one they should expect to be judged on.’

Whilst measuring poverty levels in the UK, JRF looked to see if people’s income (adjusted or equivalised for household size and composition) is less than 60% of the UK average after housing costs have been deducted.

Image: Jonathan Kho

More on this topic:

Reaction to the summer General Election plans

Local elections 2024: Conservatives in ‘a very tough situation’

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top