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UK Insights

1.5 million people destitute in UK during 2017

Alex Thornton


Economy 07.06.2018 / 10:00

homelessness destitute

Research powered by Kantar Public finds that 1 in 50 Brits could not afford basics in the previous month.

A recent report by JRF and Heriot Watt University, using survey data from Kantar Public, estimates that 1.5 million people – including 365,000 children – were destitute in the UK at some point in 2017. While this represents a decline between 2015 and 2017, this means around 1 in 50 in the UK were destitute during that year.

To be considered 'destitute', an individual must have been unable to afford two or more out of six basic essentials in the month before we interviewed them (from shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing or basic toiletries). People were also counted as destitute if they had an income of less than £70 per week. These people were not just struggling to get by, but actually unable to purchase some of the most basic items required to function and remain healthy. This is quite a shocking finding when you consider the UK was considered the fifth largest economy in the world in 2017.

The report highlights a range of triggers that can lead to destitution, described directly by those who were destitute themselves. Health and disability issues, punitive debt recovery practices and high housing and rental costs all play a role. But the benefit system was also cited as a common reason for being destitute – sanctions, withdrawal of benefits, or simply having to live on very low levels of benefits, could all cause people to struggle to make ends meet. Indeed, this may explain the dip in levels of destitution between 2015 and 2017, with a softening of the sanctioning regime over this period.

The Kantar Public survey which forms part of the analysis was one of the most innovative and interesting the company has managed. Working in partnership with Heriot Watt University, it involved visits to more than 100 services across 16 case study areas to survey nearly 3,000 members of the public. Detailed findings can be accessed here

Source : Kantar Public

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