This study, the fourth in the Destitution in the UK series, reveals approximately 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022, including around one million children. This is almost two-and-a-half times the number of people in 2017, and nearly triple the number of children. There is an urgent need for action to tackle destitution in the UK.
There has been a shameful increase in the level of destitution in the UK, with a growing number of people struggling to afford to meet their most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean, and fed. This has deep and profound impacts on health, mental health, and people’s prospects. It also puts strain on already overstretched services.
Nearly three-quarters of people experiencing destitution are in receipt of social security payments, further evidence of benefit inadequacy. Ad-hoc support from the Government, first during the pandemic and now to help with the cost of living, has not halted the rising level of destitution. We urgently need a bold and ambitious programme of action to address destitution and its corrosive impacts.
Approximately 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022 including around one million children
The number of people experiencing destitution has increased by 61% since the last Destitution in the UK survey in 2019, an increase of almost two-and-a-half times (148%) compared to 2017
The number of children experiencing destitution since 2017 has almost tripled with an increase of 186%
UK nationals accounted for almost three-quarters (72%) of the population identified as living in destitution but people who have migrated to the UK were over-represented among those experiencing destitution
The majority of survey respondents (86%) experiencing destitution do not report complex needs (defined as experiencing two or more of homelessness, drug or alcohol problems, offending, domestic violence and begging)
The rate of destitution among black-led households was three times their population share
Almost two-thirds (62%) of destitute survey respondents reported having a chronic health problem or disability
Whilst single people remain most at risk of destitution (comprising almost three-fifths of the destitute population), destitution is experienced by a growing number of families with children, particularly lone-parent households
Universal Credit should have an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ to ensure everyone has a protected minimum amount of support to afford essentials such as food and household bills. An independent process should determine the Essentials Guarantee level, based on the cost of essentials. Universal Credit’s basic rate would need to at least meet this minimum amount, and deductions would not be allowed to reduce support below that level.
Undertake wider reforms to social security, including lowering the limit on deductions from benefits to repay debts, reforming sanctions so people are not left with zero or extremely low income, and ensure people can access disability benefits they are entitled to.
Ensuring cash-first emergency financial assistance is available in all areas, along with free and impartial advice services to address the crushing debt, benefits and housing issues that keep people destitute.
Enable everyone in our communities to access help in an emergency whether they have ‘no recourse to public funds’ or not – and resource local authorities to meet this additional need. Local authorities, charities, independent funders and housing providers should also work together to prevent destitution and homelessness for people with restricted entitlement.