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Community Development Alliance Scotland

Destitution in the UK


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s latest research defines and measures destitution in the UK. Destitution is the most severe form of poverty and means someone can’t afford the basic essentials they need to eat, keep clean and stay warm and dry. (Blog)

The total number of destitute people in the UK, including UK citizens, is not currently measured by the Government. This report was commissioned by JRF in response to perceptions that such extreme poverty had risen in recent years. It has been conducted by Heriot-Watt University.

In total, researchers found that:

  • 1,252,000 people, including 312,000 children, were destitute at some point in 2015.
  • 4/5 were born in the UK.
  • Around a third had a complex need.
  • Young, single people, particularly men, are more likely to be destitute, but there are considerable numbers of families living in destitution.
  • There is no single cause, but most people had been living in poverty for a considerable period of time before tipping into destitution.

The most common causes are:

  • The extra costs of ill health and disability.
  • The high costs of housing and other essential bills.
  • Unemployment.
  • A financial shock like a benefit sanction or delay.

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