Number of destitute in UK reaches 1.25m, according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Written by Tom Freeman on 27 April 2016 in News

New research from Heriot-Watt University reveals 1.25m, including 312,000 children, were living without basic essentials in 2015

The number of people living in the UK without basic essentials reached 1.25m in 2015, according to a new report for poverty think tank the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

Among them were 312,000 children.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh also found a third of those destitute had a complex need like illness or disability.


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Rising costs and debt, including council tax debt and overpaid benefits, were listed factors.

Destitution, not currently measured by government, is when someone can’t afford the basic essentials they need to eat, keep clean and stay warm and dry. The report recorded those who lacked two or more basic essentials in one month.

Chief executive of the JRF Julia Unwin called the findings “unacceptable” and called for action to tackle the root causes.

“Governments of all stripes have failed to protect people at the bottom of the income scale from the effects of severe poverty, leaving many unable to feed, clothe or house themselves and their families,” she said.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick, director of the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University, said her report showed destitution was linked to long-term poverty.

“Destitution takes a huge toll on people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. The people we spoke to told us they felt humiliated that they couldn’t afford basic essentials without help. Many said this affected their relationships and left them socially isolated,” she said.

Rhiannon Sims of Citizens Advice Scotland said one in 42 clients has needed advice in relation to foodbanks and food parcels in the last two years.

“Over the past three years, CAS has seen a rises in cases relating to rent, council tax and utility arrears, with declining consumer credit debt.

“This shows that people can no longer afford to access high interest credit, and are instead falling behind on their rent, gas and electricity, putting them at risk of homelessness and poor health,” she said.

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