Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Monday, 8 December 2008

Poor are 'threatened by downturn'

Children in the street
There are fears the economic downturn could affect UK poverty levels

Gains made in tackling poverty and social exclusion might be threatened by the economic downturn, a report warns.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has examined the government's 10-year record on tackling poverty.

It said the current situation was a "potentially fragile position to be in when entering a recession".

The foundation also said that, after an initial burst of success, improvement in many key areas had "slowed down or remained unchanged".

This is the 10th anniversary of the annual reports, which provide an independent assessment of the progress being made in eliminating poverty and social exclusion in Britain.

This report, produced by the New Policy Institute for the JRF, uses official government data and is built around a set of 50 indicators.

The analysis covers low income, work, qualifications, health, housing, and exclusion from services.

This year's report compares progress during the first five years of this government with the most recent five.

Those already out-of-work are going to find it very much harder now to get a job
Peter Kenway, report co-author

The foundation's report found that up to about 2002, the picture was "strongly positive", with 30 of the 56 indicators showing an improvement and only a few worsening.

Since then, by contrast, only 14 indicators improved while 15 worsened - leaving 27 rated as steady.

According to the report, successes over the 10-year period include increasing the numbers of homes that meet the government's standard for "decent homes", a reduction in the extent of the pay gap between low-paid women and male median earnings, and a steep reduction in the number of low-income households without a bank account.

But there has been a failure to sustain progress with the number of people in households below a fixed income threshold, the number of working-age adults lacking but wanting paid work, and levels of worry about being a victim of burglary or violent crime.

Recession concerns

The JRF say the report is a "timely reminder of the need to consider the possible impact on already vulnerable people".

The report's co-author, Peter Kenway, said: "The successes from the past 10 years need to be acknowledged, but the failures also need to be understood if they are to be properly addressed.

"The big concern now, however, is how well an anti-poverty strategy that has been centred on getting people into work is going to fare in the face of a recession.

"With the adult social security safety net worth no more in real terms than it was a decade ago, lots of people who lose their jobs have a long way to fall.

"Those already out-of-work are going to find it very much harder now to get a job."

JRF Director Julia Unwin said: "As we enter a recession which may threaten the gains secured in the last decade, we must make sure that the needs of people living in poverty continue to be prioritised."

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