'One in 10 Britons living in Third World conditions'

Poverty
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Nearly one in 10 British people has experienced conditions of "absolute poverty" without basic human necessities such as enough food, safe drinking water and proper sanitation, a report said yesterday.

Nearly one in 10 British people has experienced conditions of "absolute poverty" without basic human necessities such as enough food, safe drinking water and proper sanitation, a report said yesterday.

The study found that extreme forms of poverty thought to exist only in the Third World were prevalent in Britain, with 5 million people suffering from severe deprivation.

Breadline Europe states that the highest rate of absolute poverty was among lone parents. More than 40 per cent of single parents with one child said they had incomes of less than £163 a week, which was the amount needed for essential items, and more than half of those with two or more children survived on less than this amount, the researchers said.

The report is based on a survey in 1999, six months after Labour started its anti-poverty drive. In the Budget on Wednesday, the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced a new package of measuresdesigned to help low-income families.

Academics from Bristol University and London University said the study was the first to measure poverty scientifically using the United Nations definition, which defines absolute poverty as a shortage of food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.

David Gordon, a senior research fellow at Bristol, said: "Absolute poverty is not supposed to exist in a country like Britain.

"But on the basis of the definition agreed by 117 governments in 1995, 9 per cent of the British population have reported their income a lot below that needed each week to keep their household out of absolute poverty." A further 8 per cent reported earning a little less than the minimum.

One quarter of single pensioners had to survive on less than the fundamental amount of £106 a week, and nearly one in five elderly couples were said to live in absolute poverty.

In addition, 15 per cent of households with two adults and one child lived on less than the required £205 a week.

The study also found levels of poverty had increased severely in other countries in the past 10 years. The biggest numbers of households judged to be living in absolute poverty were, unsurprisingly, in the former Soviet Union, Hungary and Poland.

Peter Townsend, a professor of international social policy at the London School of Economics, who co-edited the report, said: "The UK has become the special case of Europe. Some observers believe that, under successive governments, the country has been going so far down the road of residualising welfare that it has become detached from most of the other European states and is following lamely in the wake of the US."

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