The former prime minister has released research suggesting that almost four million people were now living below ‘the safety net’
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned of a ‘poverty epidemic’ as the cost-of-living crisis escalates into a public health crisis.
He shared research indicating that nearly four million people are living below the safety net. Mr Brown revealed that GPs across the UK have reported patients requesting prescriptions for basic childcare items like nappies.
He called on businesses to donate hygiene products such as toilet rolls, soap and toothpaste to charities to assist families struggling with bills.
Mr Brown said: “The welfare state has been systematically shredded over the last decade. Instead of being supported in hard times, the consequence is that as many as four million of our fellow British citizens, many actually in work, are now trapped in life below the safety net.
“The welfare state has been systematically shredded over the last decade. Instead of being supported in hard times, the consequence is that as many as four million of our fellow British citizens, many actually in work, are now trapped in life below the safety net. This life means being unable to afford basics such as clothing, toiletries, laundry and bedding.”
He added: “It means having to cut back on essentials such as food and heating because of cuts to benefits. For 700,000 children, it means having to share a bed. For nearly half a million, it means sleeping on the floor.”
He warned that the poverty crisis is turning into a public health and hygiene emergency, with families unable to keep their children clean. Mr Brown urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to conduct a comprehensive review of the Universal Credit system.
The former Labour prime minister has introduced a scheme to provide struggling families with household essentials using the “multibank” model, promising that six such facilities will be up and running across England, Wales and Scotland by year’s end. Research from children’s charity Barnardo’s indicates up to 700,000 kids are sharing beds with siblings, while a heartbreaking 440,000 have no bed of their own, being forced to sleep on the floor.
Barnardo’s chief executive Lynn Perry, said: “Bed poverty is just one aspect of child poverty, yet it starkly illustrates the challenges faced by families who can’t afford the essentials like energy bills or food. The majority of families receiving Universal Credit are in work, and many are struggling for reasons beyond their control such as a family break-up, the death of a partner, or someone losing a job amid the cost-of-living crisis. The Government must take urgent action to address these deep-rooted issues.”
A Government spokesperson said: “There are 1.7 million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared to 2010, including 400,000 children, but we know people continue to struggle so are providing record cost-of-living support to those most vulnerable worth an average £3,700 per household and are raising benefits this April.”
“But we know work is the best way to financial security, which is why we are investing billions through our Back to Work Plan, expected to help over a million people into jobs, as well as extending our childcare offer while curbing inflation and cutting taxes so people get more of the money they earn.”