The causes of local and national poverty

People most likely to live in poverty are those with disabilities or long-term illness, people who are homeless, people from ethnic minority backgrounds or pensioners. Some people live in poverty even though they are employed because many jobs are part-time or low paid.

The following factors can be linked to poverty:

  • Unemployment – Changing employment patterns have led to cutbacks and job losses in many sectors. Unemployment can have a devastating effect on a family’s income. Job shortages have led to some people having to work for very low pay or to have a zero hours contract (where the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours, while the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered).
  • Discrimination – Despite government policies, some groups in society face discrimination. This leads to social inequality. Examples include people who are disabled, those from ethnic minorities or people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
  • Government policies – When cutbacks are made to benefits or essential services such as the NHS, this can lead to social injustice. It is often those people who are most in need who are most affected. Over the last few years there has been a huge increase in the number of food banks across the UK.
  • Getting into debt – When people are trying to survive on a very limited income, they might be more likely to borrow money or use credit cards to cover their basic needs. Having to pay interest rates on a low income can lead to debts spiraling out of control, with more money going out than coming in.
  • Being a single parent - Many single parents are on low wages or cannot work at all because of childcare arrangements. Many ex-partners do not provide adequate child support and this is a further reason for poverty.
  • Homelessness – Poverty is one of the causes of homelessness. Households surviving on a low income are often less able to protect their home if there is a family crisis such as a separation, bereavement or unemployment.
  • Family circumstances - Many people are poor or wealthy because of their family background. Sometimes these cycles are broken, but there is usually a connection down the generations as the good fortune of parents is passed on to their children. Children who are brought up in poverty are more likely to leave school early with few qualifications and less chance of a good job.