What does UK poverty look like? Who does it affect?
There are many misconceptions about poverty in this part of the world. If we’re really honest, maybe we’re not even sure how bad things really are. But by debunking some of the common myths around UK poverty, we can get a much better picture of what’s going on behind closed doors and how we can actually help.
Myth #1: Real poverty doesn’t exist in the UK
We live in one of the world’s largest economies. With access to clean water, education and even a free healthcare system, it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the UK could be going without the absolute necessities. It’s easy to conclude that poverty can’t be a huge problem in the UK. But just because we can’t always ‘see’ poverty, doesn’t mean it’s not there.
In reality, we know there are around 1.5 million people living in destitution in the UK right now, and these are just the people we’re aware of because they’ve accessed a support service. It is believed that there are far more people living in destitution but these people are hidden, falling between the cracks.
These people are being forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children. They’re going without essentials such as beds and cookers. These people are in your community, on your street – maybe even right next door.
Fear and shame paralyse people, preventing them from reaching out. They struggle behind closed doors, isolated and alone. For many, not even their families know. UK poverty is real and it’s destroying people’s lives.
Myth #2: If people could find jobs it’d solve the problem
Of course, breaking the cycle of unemployment is a key part of helping people out of poverty (that’s why we run CAP Job Clubs). However, unemployment is only the main cause of debt for 6% of CAP clients, with chronic low income proving a much wider problem. A shocking 72% of children in poverty have working parents, meaning that despite record levels of employment, things still (quite literally) aren’t adding up.
Far too often our clients are forced to live without basic essentials. Even for those in paid work, when the wages are low and the hours few, it can be impossible to make ends meet month to month.
Myth #3: People end up in debt and poverty because of their own actions
For many of our clients, money is just the tip of the iceberg, and there’s so much more going on. 87% of CAP clients have struggled with one or more significant difficulties on top of their debt, and half struggled with three or more.
With no buffer to fall back on, those navigating a financial cliff-edge are especially vulnerable to being imprisoned by poverty as soon as crisis hits. Whether it’s ill health forcing them to take time off work, a family member passing away, or a marriage breakdown resulting in single parenthood, those with no access to savings (96%) are extremely vulnerable to falling into debt.
Poverty doesn’t discriminate. That’s why we’re committed to supporting people in our local communities, regardless of age, gender, faith or background. It’s also why we’re so passionate about providing emotional and practical help across many different areas of life, not just Debt Help. Our Job Clubs, Life Skills and Fresh Start groups cover a whole range of topics from finding work, budgeting, cooking, living well on a low income and tackling habitual dependencies.
Myth #4: There’s nothing I can do to help
Maybe it feels overwhelming to imagine the unbearable struggles people in your community are facing, behind closed doors. Maybe you’ve personally been affected by poverty or know someone who has. We might not be able to eradicate UK poverty overnight, but if each of us starts by looking right on our doorstep, we can see thousands of lives transformed like the 24,300 people CAP helped in 2018 (including those interacting with more than one service).
That’s why our rally cry this year is for passionate churches and individuals to dig deeper and look again at the reality of UK poverty in their communities. By opening our eyes to the need around us and taking steps to make a change, we can offer a lifeline to those that need it, reminding them that they’re not alone.
There’s hope and a solution for even the most desperate situations, and that starts with you. You can help build a better future for those living in poverty and destitution in the UK, armed with hope and a way forward. We’re encouraging individuals like you to jump on board as we call on the Government to look again at UK poverty and prioritise solutions - will you join us?
CAP exists because nobody should be held hostage by debt and poverty. By joining 30,000 other passionate individuals with a regular gift to CAP, you’re helping extend a lifeline of hope to the poorest and most vulnerable across the UK. Your support will enable us to provide expert Debt Help and group services tackling poverty and its causes, in partnership with the local Church.
Become a Life Changer today