Research warns 100,000 more Londoners face being plunged into poverty

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has urged the Government to use next week’s Budget to help those who are most in need of financial support and prevent 100,000 more Londoners being plunged into poverty, including more than 30,000 children.

The Mayor is calling on the Government to continue the £20-a-week increase to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits which was brought in to help households deal with the impact of COVID-19 and extend it to other benefits.

While the COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the UK and London, even before the pandemic the number of Londoners experiencing extreme hardship was on the rise. Research funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the GLA, and carried out by the  Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University, found that 440,000 Londoners, including 60,000 children, were destitute at some point in 2019 – meaning they had gone without two or more essentials like food, shelter, heating, or clothing in a single month. This was an increase of 28 per cent since 2017 and those most at risk of destitution include those who have been worst hit by the economic and health consequences of the pandemic.

Today’s calls are based on preliminary findings from new research commissioned by City Hall and being carried out by the University of Essex’s Centre for Microsimulation and Policy Analysis. These show more than half of the additional adult Londoners facing poverty would be from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. One in three would be single parents, and one in 10 would be disabled. Across the whole of the UK, it would push 900,000 people into poverty, including around 400,000 children.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our city, but the Government’s increase to Universal Credit has provided a lifeline for thousands of Londoners who are struggling. And even before the pandemic, London had some of the highest levels of poverty in the whole country, and the fallout from the virus risks making this even worse. It’s vital that Ministers step forward to extend this support in next week’s Budget to prevent 100,000 more Londoners being driven into poverty. But they should also go much further and extend this uplift, remove the benefit cap and increase funding to local welfare schemes so that low-income households can get the support they need during this time of national crisis.”

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of I-SPHERE at Heriot-Watt University, said: "People experiencing destitution in London are more likely than those destitute elsewhere in the UK to be homeless or living in very poor housing conditions. They also have less access to financial or in-kind support to help them eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean. It is imperative that Local Welfare Assistance schemes are restored and expanded across London to provide the lifeline urgently needed for people experiencing these emergency situations."  

Sophie Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: "Providing ever-increasing numbers of emergency food parcels to people facing financial crisis cannot possibly address the root causes of poverty. At the very least, the £20 uplift to Universal Credit must be maintained and extended to legacy benefits, the benefit cap removed and funding channelled to local welfare assistance schemes to reduce the rising tide of extreme poverty in London."

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