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Poverty Is One Of The UK's Greatest Injustices - But It Can Be Solved

12/09/2016 15:38
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Poverty is one of the worst injustices anyone can face, with a child born in a deprived British neighbourhood living nine years less than their wealthier peers. As the nation prepares to leave the EU and we enter a new chapter, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to truly define what kind of country we want to be. In her first speech as Prime Minister, Theresa May highlighted the 'burning injustice' faced by many across the UK.

As she begins her first full session as leader, we urge the Prime Minister to turn her conviction into action and once and for all tackle the poverty blighting the country. This will require a comprehensive and radical programme of social reform not seen since the Second World War.

Evidence shows that poverty in the UK is causing harm and costing the country £78 billion every year. Thirteen million people in our country struggle just to make ends meet - a number that has remained stubbornly consistent despite years of economic and employment growth.

It is not enough to simply address the consequences of poverty. In order to effect real and long-lasting change we need to tackle the root causes of poverty as identified by the Centre for Social Justice - worklessness, educational failure, family breakdown, addiction and serious personal debt, as well as important issues such as low pay and the high cost of living. This will only be possible if government departments, businesses, civic organisations, communities and families work together.

We believe, by 2030, a child who starts their education this term should leave school into a UK where no one is destitute, fewer than one in ten is in poverty, and no one is in poverty for more than two years. There are three key ways to achieve this vision.

We want to see business work better for people trapped in poverty. Work is the most effective route out of poverty, and with good reason. But when people do find work, four in five low paid workers are still stuck on low wages after ten years. We need to support business to train and upskill their employees which will in turn raise economic productivity and wages and elevate the life chances of millions.

We know that family breakdown can be both a cause and a result of poverty. According to new research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, halving the rate of breakdown would reduce severe poverty by 12%; reduce the number of children living in workless households by 17% and save £30 billion of public money by 2040. We want to see a family hub in every area to provide relationship, employment and parenting support which will strengthen families and provide the security and support should parents separate.

We want to see Universal Credit fully rolled out to ensure work always pays. Cuts to the work allowance have reduced work incentives and these should be reversed.

Poverty in the UK is a big problem, and solving it requires a big response. But we cannot avoid the problem any longer. As Brexit showed, addressing poverty is a moral, political and economic imperative. It wastes people's potential, depriving our society and economy of the skills and talents of those who have valuable contributions to make. Solving the burning injustice of poverty is the way to truly make Britain work for all.

Julia Unwin is chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Baroness Philippa Stroud is chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)

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