Nearly 700,000 people have fallen into poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, analysis suggests.
According to a report from the Legatum Institute, there are an estimated 690,000 more people in poverty in the UK, compared to a situation where Covid-19 had not struck.
But government action has halved the increase in poverty that otherwise would have occurred, the think tank said.
It estimates that a further 690,000 people have been prevented from falling into poverty by the temporary £ 20 per week increase in universal credits and workload benefits.
This increase, and the suspension of minimum income, has “isolated many families from the economic impact of Covid-19,” the report said.
The report provides the first estimates of poverty this winter. It uses the Social Metrics Commission’s approach to measure poverty, which the government is currently using to develop and release experimental statistics.
Baroness Philippa Stroud, chief executive of the Legatum Institute, calls on the government to “continue” with this work.
She said: “Given the well-documented impact the pandemic has on jobs and income for families across the UK, it is no surprise that poverty is on the rise.
“Our analysis shows, however, that government action in times of crisis can protect many of those vulnerable to poverty. But it must have the right tools and the right information.
“For this to continue as we begin to adapt to or live with Covid-19, there is a clear need for a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy to be placed at the center of the UK’s response to the recovery of Covid. “
The rise in poverty is most common among adults of working age, the analysis shows, while increases in benefits have led some groups, such as single-parent families, to fall into poverty.
The Legatum Institute said this suggests that the impact on children may be more muted than expected, with an increase in poverty of an estimated 120,000 children.
Helen Barnard, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said of the Universal Credit increase: “We should be proud of our country’s decision to protect the lowest-income people through our social security system – that is the right choice.
But it makes it all the more disappointing that the Chancellor is silent on whether this lifeline will remain in place beyond April, leaving millions to wait for winter in fear and uncertainty.
“There is no conceivable scenario in which this support will not be necessary, and if nothing is done, poverty threatens to rise sharply.
“It’s not too late for the Chancellor to do the right thing,” she added.