The real cost of UK poverty


A new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has found that dealing with the effects of poverty costs the UK £78bn a year.

JRF researched how poverty – defined as living on incomes below 60% of the median level – across all age groups costs different government departments.

The biggest chunk of the £78bn figure is spent on treating health conditions associated with poverty (£29bn) with the second highest figure coming from the cost of providing initiatives in schools such as free school meals (£10bn).

The report said that the strong relationship between poverty and ill health was now ‘widely accepted’ and there was also growing evidence of links between poverty and mental illness, where the stress of living in poverty triggered episodes of ill health.

“I couldn’t cope anymore, it was an absolute nightmare”

Helen previously worked as a Head of Department for a local school. When her husband suffered a series of serious health problems including a heart attack and stroke which left him unable to look after himself, Helen had to leave her job to become his full-time carer.

Bills started to mount and the mortgage went in to arrears, to the point where Helen feared the family would lose their home. The stress of struggling financially and caring for her husband placed a huge strain on Helen, and she suffered depression, hypertension and other health problems.

She says: “I hadn’t got any money to pay the bills; I didn’t know what was going to happen about the house. I couldn’t cope anymore, it was an absolute nightmare.”

Receiving support from benefits and grants started to help the family to get back on their feet and Helen now uses her experience to help others in similar situations.

Read Helen’s full story.

“I felt that I’d failed myself and my family”

When Michelle was made redundant from her job, and with a serious health problem occurring at the same time, she was left without an income and unable to pay her mortgage.

Michelle says: “I had no idea what was going to happen to me. I’ve worked all my life and then had no idea what was round the corner. It was difficult because I felt like a failure, like I failed myself, and failed my family.”

Michelle found help through Turn2us, which, she says, “meant that I could start to have some sort of life again.”

Read Michelle’s full story.

Find support

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlements to welfare support, amounts you could receive and how to make a claim.

You can check if you might be eligible for a grant and other support from over 3,000 charitable funds using our Grants Search.

You can also find further help and information for your circumstances on our Your Situation section.

Source: BBC News: Poverty costs UK £78bn a year, Joseph Rowntree Foundation says

Read JRF’s full report ‘Counting the Cost of UK Poverty’