Launch of new Poverty Strategy Commission in the UK

Cross-party, cross-sectoral commission of politicians, business leaders and civil society unite to develop strategy to tackle persistent poverty in the UK.

A commentary for the UK Poverty Unit programme by Baroness Philippa Stroud

Published 5 Jul 2022

A group of the leading thinkers across left and right have today united to form a ‘Poverty Strategy Commission’ to develop ideas for reducing poverty in the UK.

In a joint letter from over 20 leaders in politics, business and civil society, the Poverty Strategy Commissioners said:

“Together, we can tackle poverty. That is the message from the Poverty Strategy Commission, which we publicly launch today. But doing so will require a different approach. While concerted political and policy efforts have meant that some groups, including pensioners, have benefited from lower poverty rates, the last 20 years have seen the overall poverty rate in the UK remain stubbornly above 20% and the number of people in deep and persistent poverty increase. That has been the symptom of an approach that has used poverty as a political football and a result of the fact that, collectively, we have failed to appreciate that poverty affects us all, and we are all responsible for tackling it. “

The Commission, convened by the Legatum Institute CEO and former special advisor at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Baroness Stroud, includes the Labour Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Stephen Timms and a former DWP Secretary of State Stephen Crabb. From civil society, a range of thinkers are represented including the Associate Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Helen Barnard, a former advisor to Tony Blair and expert on social policy Carey Oppenheim, the Director of Reform Charlotte Pickles, and the head of Citizens UK, Matthew Bolton. Business leaders are also part of the commission, notably James Timpson, the CEO of Timpson.

Together they have set themselves to finding genuine solutions, adopting a cross-party, cross-sectoral approach.

“Our belief is that, by working together, we can turn this around. Purpose-led businesses can drive the growth and create the quality jobs that people need to provide for themselves. As families and individuals, we can develop the right skills, invest in our children and grasp the future opportunities that are available. Charities, community groups and local businesses can work together to support our families and communities to be more resilient. As a society, we must protect those who cannot work and help more and more people take steps towards employment and increased earnings where they have previously been left behind.

Of course, we recognise the vital role of governments (central and local) across the country. Individual, collective and business action needs the State to set the right framework and provide the right support. Local government provides frontline services to families right across the UK. And without a Social Security system that provides both a strong safety net and an effective springboard, any attempts at tackling poverty will be undermined. What this shows is that we all have a role to play.”

Commenting on the launch of the Commission, Baroness Stroud said: “We are seeking to develop cross-party solutions to the complex problems which have been at the heart of British society for decades. The lack of a political imperative has meant that too often these issues have been neglected, and government responses have been reactive or ad hoc. This cost-of-living crisis means we are no longer afforded that luxury. It is the issue that will define the next election. Our hope is that the ideas we develop will form the basis for a bipartisan consensus on the pathway forward.”