According to a recent study conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a UK charity focusing on social change, almost four million people in Britain, including over a million children, experienced extreme poverty in 2021. The study revealed that the number of Britons facing destitution has increased by 61% between 2019 and 2022, with a total of 3.8 million people falling into this category.
The charity defines “destitution” as the state of being unable to meet basic physical needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and heating. This can occur either due to a lack of essential resources or because individuals have such low incomes that they cannot afford to purchase these basic necessities.
The study identified a minimum threshold for household income, which varies depending on housing costs. For example, a single adult should have a weekly income of at least £95 ($115), while a couple with two children should have a weekly income of £205 ($249). However, over half of destitute households reported a weekly income of less than £85 after housing costs, and a quarter had no income at all.
One of the most concerning findings from the study is the sharp increase in the number of destitute children. Since 2017, the number has nearly tripled, marking an alarming 186% increase. Adults across the country have reported frequently going without meals to ensure their children can eat, with around two-thirds of respondents stating that they had experienced hunger in the past month and relied on food banks or relatives for groceries.
In addition to food shortages, over half of destitute adults also struggle to afford hygiene and cleaning products, as well as toiletries like shampoo and toothpaste. Many reported relying on food banks to access these essential items. Furthermore, most of the adults surveyed said they couldn’t afford new clothes and footwear, only purchasing necessary items like school uniforms and trainers for their children.
These findings highlight the dire situation faced by millions of people in the UK. The combination of low incomes, rising costs of living, and high levels of debt has pushed many Britons into destitution. This not only affects their ability to meet their basic needs but also has long-term consequences for their physical and mental well-being.
The study serves as a wake-up call for policymakers and highlights the urgent need for measures to address poverty and inequality in the UK. Without significant interventions, the number of people facing destitution will continue to rise, perpetuating a cycle of poverty that disproportionately affects vulnerable individuals and families.
It is essential for government, charities, and society as a whole to come together to find sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty and create a fairer society. This includes ensuring access to well-paid jobs, affordable housing, and a robust social safety net, as well as tackling systemic issues such as the high cost of living and the widening wealth gap.
The findings of this study should serve as a catalyst for action, prompting a collective effort to address the root causes of destitution and create a society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.