Major study says 3.8m people, including 1m children, suffered extreme hardship last year

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, supported by the Independent Food Aid Network (to which the Food Hub is affiliated), has called for urgent action to tackle destitution.

The latest study by the Foundation, which conducts and funds research into poverty, revealed that in 2022 about 3.8 million people in the UK experienced destitution – the most severe form of hardship – including around one million children.

“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,” says the report. “This has deep and profound impacts on health, mental health and people’s prospects; it also puts strain on already overstretched services.”

It calls for a bold and ambitious programme of action to address destitution:

  • 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 ensuring people can access disability benefits they are entitled to.

  • Ensure 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 extra need.

The full report is available here.