The Social Metrics Commission (SMC) has released the report ‘A new measure of poverty for the UK’. SMC is an independent Commission formed and led by the Legatum Institute’s CEO Baroness Stroud, brought together to develop a new approach to poverty measurement that both better reflects the nature and experiences of poverty that different families in the UK have, and can be used to build a consensus around poverty measurement and action in the UK.

Key findings

  • 2 million people in the UK live in poverty: 8.4 million working-age adults; 4.5 million children; and 1.4 million pension age adults.
  • Over half of those in poverty (58.2%) also live in persistent poverty. This means that more than one in ten (7.7 million) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years.
  • People with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty. Nearly half of the 14.2 million people in poverty live in families with a disabled person (6.9 million people equal to 48.3% of those in poverty).
  • Far fewer pensioners are living in poverty than previously thought, with a significant fall in pensioner poverty over the last 15 years.
  • Poverty rates amongst pension-age adults have nearly halved since 2001, and have fallen to one in ten, a drop from 17% of the total population in poverty in 2001 to 11% in 2017.


The metric developed by the Commission accounts for the negative impact on people’s weekly income of inescapable costs such as childcare and the impact that disability has on people’s needs; and includes the positive impacts of being able to access liquid assets such as savings, to alleviate immediate poverty. The Commission’s metric also takes the first steps to including groups of people previously omitted from poverty statistics, like those living on the streets and those in overcrowded housing.

The metric is also positioned within a wider framework that helps see a more detailed picture of exactly who is poor, and the range of factors that can detrimentally impact on their lives, their experience of poverty and their future chances of remaining in, or entering poverty.

CEO Baroness Philippa Stroud affirms ‘many of these sound like simple ideas, and our research with the general public shows strong support of the idea that poverty should take account of each of them. However, this is the first time that all of these ideas have been brought together into a coherent framework for poverty measurement, which can be applied to existing UK data’.

(Source: Newsletter | Full report | Summary)


From the blog: Topics – Poverty

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