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JRF calls for watchdog to hold government to account on poverty

There should be a “powerful independent watchdog” to hold the government to account for its record on poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has said.

In a report released this week, the JRF calls for the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to be required to monitor and forecast levels of poverty, and for the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (SMCPC) to have its remit expanded to hold the government to account for its record on poverty.

The proposals are outlined in A UK Without Poverty, published by JRF on 14 September.

The JRF says successive governments’ attempts to tackle poverty have not been good enough, with overall levels of poverty similar now to what they were 25 years ago.

Julia Unwin, chief executive at JRF, said: “Poverty is a cost the UK cannot afford. It wastes people’s potential and drains public finances, hampering economic growth – child poverty alone costs the UK £29bn a year.

“If we don’t act poverty is likely to increase: the parties’ manifestos are the last chance to stem the rising tide of poverty before 2020. We need governments to adopt proper strategies to address poverty in the UK – not simple lists of policies, with no road-map to its eradication.

“A comprehensive approach involving government, business, individuals, markets, civil society and communities is required. This must be backed up full and independent scrutiny from the OBR and the SMCPC.”

In the proposals outlined by JRF there are four key areas that are in need of a comprehensive strategy, they are:

  1. Boosting household incomes through higher wages and improving work incentives under Universal Credit.
  2. Improving people’s life chances by closing the attainment gap in education and businesses leading attempts to tackle in-work poverty.
  3. Preventing people from sliding into poverty, through wider access to advice and relationship support services, and personalised support for people with complex needs.
  4. Access to essential goods and services and sufficient supply of affordable housing.

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