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Hundreds of thousands of children and older people have plunged into poverty in the past four years, according to new research.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners in the UK were living in poverty last year compared with 2012-13, the first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty for 20 years.
The foundation warned that decades of progress were at risk of being undone amid weak wage growth and rising inflation.
The thinktank urged the government to unfreeze benefits, increase training for adult workers and to embark on a more ambitious house-building programme to provide affordable homes for struggling families.
UK Poverty 2017 found a gradual increase in poverty rates over the past four years, reversing a trend of falling numbers since the mid-1990s.
About a third of children were living in families lacking the resources for their minimum needs in 1994-95 before the rate fell to 27 per cent in 2011-12 with the help of higher employment rates and tax credits introduced under the last Labour government. The proportion of pensioners living in poverty fell from 28 per cent to 13 per cent over the same period.
However, poverty rates increased to 16 per cent for pensioners and 30 per cent for children last year, while the charity also found as many as one in five people across the UK may be in poverty - which it defines as being when someone earns less than 60 per cent of median earnings, adjusted for size and type of household.
Campbell Robb, JRF chief executive, said: “These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty. Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet.”
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