The government needs to “get serious” about ending poverty in Yorkshire, campaigners have said, as major new research shows there are 1.2 million people in the region living below the breadline.
There are 30,000 more people in Yorkshire living in poverty than five years ago, research by the York-based Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has found.
While more than a fifth of people in Yorkshire live in poverty, what is particularly concerning, the think tank said, is that most of this rise was among children and the elderly.
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Nearly a third of all children in the region, a total of 350,000, are now living in poverty.
Despite rising levels of employment, in-work poverty has also risen because often people's pay, hours, or both, are not enough, JRF said.
Just over half of people in poverty are in a working family, compared to 39 per cent 20 years ago, according to the research.
Chris Goulden, deputy director of evidence and impact at JRF, said: “Poverty in Yorkshire is going to continue to rise unless the new government gets serious about the problem.
“We need to see positive trends towards a reduction in housing costs, particularly for renters. People are struggling to pay their rents and council tax bills - for many people there’s a gap between their rent and what they have coming in.
“Many people have got jobs but can’t get the hours they need.”
He said, in Yorkshire, transport was a particular problem and called for improvements to the bus network as well as better trains, as parents often were forced to choose lower-paying jobs closer to come as they struggled to balance a commute with childcare responsibilities.
Across the UK, 14 million people were living in poverty, including four million children and two million pensioners, up by 400,000 and 300,000 respectively over the past five years.
The highest poverty rates were in London, the North of England, the Midlands and Wales, and lowest were in the South, Scotland and Northern Ireland, said the report.
The differences in poverty rates were often driven by the availability of good quality jobs and housing costs, said JRF.
The report said people were more likely to be in poverty if they lived in certain parts of the UK, in a family where there is a disabled person or a carer, if they work in the hospitality or retail sector, or if they live in rented housing.
JRF called on the Government to improve job security and quality, see the benefits system as an essential public service that loosens the grip of poverty, and help make more low-cost housing available.
The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “The findings from JRF’s report today could not be clearer: for too many people it’s becoming harder and harder to keep their heads above water.
“At food banks, we’re seeing issues with our benefits system, like the five week wait for Universal Credit and payments not covering the cost of living, pushing more people than ever before to food banks. This isn’t right. But it is something we can change.
“As a country, we can’t shy away from the changes that would make a real difference to pull people out of poverty and ultimately, end the need for food banks in the UK. It’s in our power to make a change.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Tackling poverty will always be a priority for this Government.
"We know that getting into work is the best route out of poverty and there are more people in work than ever before. Wages are outstripping inflation and absolute poverty is lower than in 2010.
"We know that some need more help, which is why we spend over £95 billion a year on working-age benefits. Millions will see their benefit payments rise further from April and we're also boosting the incomes of pensioners each year through the triple lock."