1,000,000 children living in most extreme poverty as figure almost trebles since 2017, report finds

4 million people experienced destitution in 2022

Children living in poverty

A damning new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) on the scale of destitution in the UK, has found that more than a million children experienced the most extreme form of poverty last year, with the figure almost trebling since 2017.

The report – the fourth in a series of Destitution in the UK studies published regularly in recent years, also revealed that almost 4 million people experienced destitution in 2022. Destitution is when people cannot afford to meet their most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

The damning figures shame us as a nation, with the rise in levels of destitution down to the cost of living crisis, low incomes as well as high levels of debt. The JRF report also highlighted how the social security system is failing to protect people from destitution, with almost three quarters (72%) of those destitute being in receipt of benefits.

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 report stated: “Single people of working age continue to be the worst-affected group by far, but for the first time in 2022 around a million children were living in households that experienced destitution. The shocking statistics revealed in this report reflect a social security system now so full of holes that it falls to charities – such as food banks – to try to prevent people from experiencing the worst of destitution, but the task is too great for them.

“What is more, relying on charity to fulfil what should be the responsibility of the Government is morally unacceptable.”

There are also regional differences when it comes to destitution, with the latest analysis finding that London had the highest destitution levels in 2022, followed by the North East and North West. The lowest rates were in the southern English regions.

The JRF is calling for an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ to Universal Credit, to ensure everyone has a protected minimum amount of support to afford essentials such as food and household bills as well as for reform to the social security system. This includes: 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.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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