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Millions of people in UK would need to double their income to escape poverty, new report warns

Millions of Britons would need to more than double their income to climb out of poverty, according to a new report criticising "social failure at scale".

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), six million people were in very deep poverty in 2021-22 - 1.5 million more than 20 years ago.

This means they received less than 40% of the country's median (middle) income after housing costs.

These people would need an additional £12,800 a year to reach the poverty line, which is defined as 60% of median income.

Giving an example of a couple with two children under 14 living in poverty, JRF suggested the average income for this type of family after housing costs was £21,900 - and they would need an extra £6,200 yearly just to reach the poverty line.

In the mid-1990s, the gap was £3,300 after adjusting for inflation.

The JRF has warned that the poverty gap - the amount of money needed to bring the incomes of those in poverty to the poverty line - has widened.

In 2021-22, 22% of the population (14.4 million people) were in poverty in the UK - including 8.1 million working-age adults, 4.2 million children and 2.1 million pensioners.

This equates to two in 10 adults, and three in 10 children.

There are many reasons why people are stuck in poverty - including illnesses or redundancies - but according to the Big Issue, "structural and systemic issues" worsened by increasing living costs create a "cycle that keeps people trapped" in hardship.

The JRF showed that poverty rates grew rapidly under Margaret Thatcher's administration in the 1980s and remained high, with small decreases in following governments.

Its report urged political parties to include an essentials guarantee in Universal Credit, ensuring people always have enough to cover "life essentials like food and energy".

Former prime minister Gordon Brown recently told Sky News that Universal Credit was "not working" and needed to be addressed after citing families unable to afford fundamental housing appliances and forgoing basic hygiene products like soap and toothpaste due to the cost of living crisis.

The Trussell Trust network, which supports more than 1,300 food bank centres across the UK, had forecast that more than 600,000 people would rely on food banks from December until February this year.

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Paul Kissack, JRF group chief executive, confirmed families were spiralling deeper below the poverty line.

He said: "Little wonder that the visceral signs of hardship and destitution are all around us - from rocketing use of foodbanks to growing numbers of homeless families.

"This is social failure at scale."

Mr Kissack said political parties must set out their plans to "turn back the tide on poverty" as the country approaches a general election.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis said the "stark reality" was that people's incomes were less than their minimum necessary spend, despite help from money charities.

He said the JRF report must prompt policymakers and regulators to "sit up [and] take note and address these deep-rooted problems".

A government spokesperson said: "We are continuing to support families with the cost of living backed by £104bn - and there are 1.7 million fewer people living in absolute poverty, including 400,000 children, compared to 2010.

"Children are five times less likely to experience poverty living in a household where all adults work, compared to those in workless households."

The spokesperson added that taxes have been cut and inflation is being curbed "so hard-working people have more money in their pocket".