MORE than 700,000 people in Plymouth and the South West are so deprived they are going without three or more of the basic necessities of life, according to a new report.
Researchers carrying out the largest study of poverty and deprivation conducted in the UK found that seven per cent of people living in the region could not afford to eat a balanced diet, while about 1.2million could not afford to heat and maintain their home properly.
Some 462,900 (nine per cent) of people could not clothe themselves or their children properly, while 982,000 of the regional population were said to be in “social deprivation” – not able to take part in hobbies and sports, or provide birthday and Christmas celebrations.
In Plymouth the latest NHS figures show 10,200 city children and 67,150 people living in poverty.
Maria Mills, of Plymouth Foodbank, says benefit cuts and the tax system are conspiring to keep people in a “poverty trap.”
“Last year we helped 7,400 people, this year it will be more than 9,000,” she said. “The biggest problem is benefit sanctions, but low income and zero hours contracts are still a big issue. It’s modern slavery.
“I think instead of paying working tax credits or child tax credits, if that money went into allowing employers to pay a decent wage we would have people who could have enough disposable income. At the moment we are keeping people in a poverty trap.”
Overall, 34 per cent were found to be “multiply deprived”. But a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman questioned the findings, saying: “There is strong evidence that incomes have improved over the last 30 years, despite the misleading picture painted by this report,” he said.
“The independent statistics are clear, there are 1.4 million fewer people in poverty since 1998, and under this Government we have successfully protected the poorest from falling behind with a reduction of 300,000 children living in relative income poverty and 100,000 fewer children in workless poor families.”
Nevertheless those behind the report – the Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE) project – insisted they stood by the results of two surveys. Professor David Gordon, from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, led the project which involved 14,559 people in the UK.
“The coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed,” he said. “The available high-quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening.