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What counts as destitution?

calendar26 June 2019

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

What counts as destitution?

Relative poverty, absolute poverty, below the poverty line and now destitution. This subject is so political, so full of finger pointing. For a lot of us, it’s hard to weed out quite what the reality really looks like, aside from the rhetoric.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has helpfully found a benchmark of showing someone in destitution – the most severe form of poverty. They say it means they are going without two or more essentials in a month.

So, the cynic in you is rightly asking, ‘Well, what counts as “essential”?’

Here’s the list:

  • Shelter;
  • Lighting;
  • Heating;
  • Food;
  • Basic toiletries like soap and toothpaste; and
  • Clothing or shoes appropriate for the weather.

So, before we go further, let’s see which two we’d be OK living without in a month.

Going without heating in the summer doesn’t seem too bad, but if that means no hot water either, that’s pretty miserable when you can’t wash yourself or your clothes.

Maybe not having clothes appropriate for the weather isn’t too bad, but then, if you can’t be dry (and let’s remember you don’t have a car and can’t afford public transport) your wellbeing will plummet. Then, there’s not much comfort when you get home, if you have one.

The point is, there just isn’t an acceptable combination.

In a just and compassionate society like ours, is it right that anyone has to live like this?

CAP’s latest report shows that around a third of the people we’re helping are living in destitution. Their suffering is often a private, behind-closed-doors type of poverty.

Now, we’re challenging society and the Government to take a deeper look at UK poverty with the #LookAgain campaign.

Will you help us by signing up here?

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