Benefit sanctions and delays among the most common causes for people falling into destitution

Tuesday 24 May 2016

A report published on 27 April 2016 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 1.25 million people in the UK are destitute, including over 300,000 children.

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A report published on 27 April 2016 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 1.25 million people in the UK are destitute, including over 300,000 children. Benefit sanctions and delays were found to be among the most common causes for people falling into destitution.

In its report 'Destitution in the UK' the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that 1.25 million people, including 312,000 children, were destitute - without the basic essentials they need to eat, keep clean and stay warm and dry - at some point in 2015. In 2015, destitute people reported problems with getting behind on bills (57%), serious debt (33%), benefit delays (40%) or sanctions (30%), serious health problems (29%), eviction (19%), problems with work (19%), breakdown in relationship with family members (25%), separation from a partner (14%) and domestic violence (11%).

Destitution was defined by researchers as reliance on a weekly income so low (£70 for a single adult, £140 for a couple with children after housing costs) that basic essentials were unaffordable.

The report found that most people had been living in poverty for a considerable period of time before becoming destitute and that the most common reasons for tipping them over the edge were:

  • the extra costs of ill health and disability;
  • a financial shock, such as benefit sanctions or delays;
  • the high costs of housing and other essential bills - the most common debts were social fund loans and benefit overpayments owed to DWP, council tax arrears owed to local councils, rent arrears, and debts to utility companies; and
  • unemployment.

For more information, read the full report.

For media stories online see 'More than a million people in UK living in destitution, study shows' the Guardian 27.04.16 and 'Number of destitute in UK 'shocking', says anti-poverty group' Daily Mail 27.04.26.

Rhiannon Sims of Citizens Advice Scotland is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying:

"Our evidence shows us that many people have no resilience to income shocks, and it only takes a delayed benefit payment or the loss of a shift at work to push someone into a situation in which they cannot afford basic essentials - food, shelter and warmth."

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