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Wednesday, 8 December, 1999, 19:09 GMT
Poverty report challenges Blair
social exclusion graphic Poverty has not changed in the last year

Poverty increased during the first year of the Labour government, a report states, adding that it is more prevalent in the north than the south.

Hardest-hit are the north of England and Scotland, according to the report, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 1999, commissioned from the New Policy Institute by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The publication comes two days after Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed the government's own statistics on levels of deprivation in the UK.

The government challenged a previous report by Bristol University which said that ill-health and poverty are concentrated in the north of Britain.
job centre pic Nearly 200,000 under 19-year-olds do not have a basic qualification

But the Rowntree Foundation's figures show that the number of people receiving less than 40% of the average national wage rose by a million to 8,000,000 during the two years to April 1998.

The statistics do not reflect the impact of more recent policies such as the national minimum wage and the working families tax credit, however and the reseachers say it is too early to judge Labour's overall strategy.

The highest numbers of low earners are located in Scotland, the north-west, Wales and the north-east, the report's findings show.

In contrast, the fewest low-earners are to be found in the south-east, the east and the south west.

One of the authors of the NPI report, Guy Palmer, said the government's figures were "possibly over-optimistic".

However, it is too early to measure the effects of this government's policies, said another author, Catherine Howarth.

The report indicated that poverty levels in the UK did not improve during the last year that statistics were available.

The annual report found that the number of people living with incomes below half the national average remained at approximately 10.7m.

And it indicated that health inequalities have continued to worsen, with premature deaths becoming geographically concentrated in low-income areas.

To view some of the findings, click here

Over two million children live in workless households
Labour force survey, spring quarter, ONS, 1999
It also found that obesity was three times as prevalent in women from poor backgrounds compared with those from the most affluent backgrounds.

It reported that the highest percentage of 15-24 year-olds committed suicide in 1998.

More than 730 young adults killed themselves in 1998. Statistics also found that young men without a known occupation are nearly four times as vulnerable to suicide as those in more affluent social classes.

Ms Howarth said: "Because significant policies were not introduced until two years into their term of office, we will not be able to measure their effects until next year."

Over 300,000 pensioner households still do not have a telephone
Family expenditure survey 1997-98 ONS
The report looked at 50 indicators, divided into six categories: poverty and low income, children, young adults, adults, older people and communities, and studied a period from 1997-1998.

The third author, Peter Kenway, said that some of the "most alarming" statistics were to be found in the last two categories.

He said: "The whole issue of older people and social exclusion needs to be re-examined. If the means of escaping social exclusion are education and work, then clearly these are not routes available to older people."

elderly lady More than one million pensioners have no private income
The report found that more than one million pensioners rely on the state retirement pension and state benefits alone - and that more than two thirds of that figure represents people living alone.

It showed that better-off pensioners spent 25% more on food than those depending solely on state retirement pension.

Further research showed that one-fifth of the poorest households do not have any type of bank or building society account - a statistic which compares with one-sixteenth of households on an average income.

Mr Palmer said that this statistic was likely to get worse as banks and post offices continued to shut branches.

The percentage of poor households without central heating continues to fall steadily; but the poorest households are still almost twice as likely to be without it as households on average incomes
Family expenditure survey 1997-98, ONS

"We must not be over-optimistic that these things will change just because there are policies in place," he said.

The authors of the report suggest that tackling social exclusion effectively will need to involve the commitment of individuals and organisation in the private sector as well as changes in public expenditure and services.

To view some of the findings, click here

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Poverty increase
Are the poor really getting poorer?

See also:
08 Dec 99 |  UK
Poverty: Who's line is it anyway?
08 Dec 99 |  UK
Cash only: Living in poverty
08 Dec 99 |  Features
Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 1999
08 Dec 99 |  UK
Q and A: What is poverty?
30 Sep 99 |  UK
Survey emphasises north-south divide

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