For the last 20 years there has been a mantra among the UK political classes that work is the best solution to poverty. It was the background to the welfare-to-work New Deal programmes in the 2000s. Since 2010, it has been reinforced with more benefit conditionality and punitive sanctions and it has been used to justify many of the austerity measures: the freezing of working-age benefits, the benefit cap, the two-child policy, cuts to employment and support allowance, the bedroom tax and rent limits in housing benefit. And perhaps it reached its apotheosis (or nadir) in the 2017 Department for Work and Pensions paper Improving Lives: helping workless families. Jonathan Bradshaw, Oleksandr Movshuk and Gwyther Rees unpick the data to reveal that all these work-related measures have instead contributed to undermining living standards and increasing poverty, and have distracted us from the bigger problem of in-work poverty.