More than 1.25 million people in the UK are living in severe poverty and are unable to afford the basic essentials they need, keep clean and stay warm and dry, according to a new study.
The 'Destitution in the UK report’ by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that there are 668,000 destitute households containing 312,000 children in the UK. 184,000 of these households had to rely on charities for essentials such as food, clothing, toiletries and shelter in 2015.
Over three-quarters (76%) of those interviewed in the study reported going without meals and seven in ten (71%) were left unable to afford clothing. More than half (56%) of those facing destitution reported that they had been unable to heat their homes.
According to the study, young single people, particularly men are more likely to be destitute. Migrants faced disproportionate risks of severe poverty brought on by not being eligible for benefits, lack of access to jobs and limited knowledge of the UK support system. The majority (79%) interviewed were born here and around a third had complex needs.
The report found no single cause of destitution. Common routes included inability to maintain debt repayments (usually to public authorities), high living costs (housing and fuel bills) and benefit sanctions and delays.
The number of people experiencing severe poverty has been rising since the economic crash in 2008 with destitution found to be geographically clustered in former industrial regions, largely in the North of England and other UK countries and some London boroughs and seaside towns.
We will be launching our #BenefitsAware campaign on 11 May which will include a poster campaign in the North East of England targeting support to those who are not yet aware of what help is on offer.
"Unacceptable to see such levels of severe poverty in our country"
JRF is calling upon the Government, community and businesses to work together to provide better emergency support, make basic essentials more affordable and create better jobs if destitution is to end in the UK.
Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “There is a shocking number of people in the UK living in destitution. It is simply unacceptable to see such levels of severe poverty in our country in the 21st Century. Governments of all stripes have failed to protect people at the bottom of the income scale from the effects of severe poverty, leaving them unable to feed, clothe or house themselves and their families.
“Tackling the many causes of destitution is difficult. Many people affected are living on a very low income before they are no longer able to make their incomes stretch or a financial shock like a benefit delay or family breakdown pushes them over the edge into destitution.”
"Poverty at its lowest level since the 1980s"
A Government spokesman said: “The truth is that relative poverty is at its lowest level since the 1980s and the number of children in poverty has fallen by 300,000 since 2010.
“This report ignores a number of measures we’ve brought in to improve life chances, including the ‘National Living Wage’, the extension of free childcare to 30 hours and increases to the personal allowance. We also continue to spend £80 billion on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for those who need it the most.”
Severe poverty in the UK is deeply concerning
Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us, said: “JRF’s timely report reveals that abject poverty is a stark fact for many in the UK. Yet at the same time we also know that around £15bn of benefits go unclaimed every year; that there is at least £300m in charitable trusts and funds available to help people; and that essential service providers, like energy and water companies, have set aside substantial amounts to help those who need support. The uncomfortable truth is that this help doesn’t always get to those who need it most.
“Our own research tells us that routinely some of the most vulnerable people simply don’t realise they are eligible for support, or that this help is available in the first place. There remains a huge responsibility on all sectors – public, commercial, voluntary – to go the extra mile to change that.
“I’d urge people not to suffer in silence but to see what support is available. I’d also urge anyone who has a friend, a neighbour, or a relative, who they think might be eligible for support, to act. Finding that help need not be daunting or complicated - I’d encourage anyone looking for support, either for themselves or for someone they care about, to visit our website to find the support available to them.”
What help is available if you are struggling financially?
You can use the free Turn2us Benefits Calculator to check your benefits entitlements. Even if you have checked before, it is worth checking again, especially if there has been a change in your circumstances.
You can also check if you are eligible for a charitable grant or other support by using the Turn2us Grants Search.
If you are worried about your situation and would like further advice, you can use the Turn2us Find an Adviser tool to locate face-to-face advice in your local area.
Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation press release