How the UK’s social security system stopped tackling poverty

Published: June 20

The cost of living is the most important issue for many voters this election. It’s no surprise why. In 2022, nearly 4 million people in the UK experienced destitution, meaning they could not meet their basic physical needs such as having enough to eat and staying warm.

The UK’s social security system is failing in its core purpose to prevent poverty. And yet the Conservatives have promised more crackdowns on welfare, with the prime minister linking this with his pledge to lower taxes.

When the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government came to power in 2010, they inherited a social security system in radically better shape than it is now. What happened?

During the previous Labour governments (1997-2010), 2.4 million people were lifted out of poverty, including 700,000 children. This was done during favourable economic conditions, but was also the result of progressive social security measures such as tax credits and child benefits.

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