Today one in five people are living in poverty, which is just not right. The nature of poverty has changed over time, so the ways we tackle poverty must change too. And we need big ideas because current approaches are not working. We have a shared responsibility to work together to solve poverty.

             "the UK - like many other developed nations - is badly in need of big ideas to solve poverty".
             - Claire Ainsley the Executive Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF)

Of the 14 million people in poverty, JRF’s figures released recently show that 1.5 million people are destitute, which is the most severe form of poverty and means someone lacks two or more of the basic essentials in a month.  JRF produced their tenth minimum income standard, and it typically shows that a third of the population live below what the public considers the necessary minimum to participate in society.

Latest figures from JRF’s state of the nation report show that child and pensioner poverty are beginning to rise, the first sustained increases in two decades. But rates of poverty in the UK were already far too high, and overall, they have not changed a great deal in 20 years. We need big ideas to solve UK poverty because contemporary approaches have run out of steam. Technocratic solutions that do not face up to the nature and scale of the problem will fall short of rising to the challenge of the dynamic and shifting character of modern-day poverty.


The further households fall below the MIS budget, the more they struggle to make ends meet. We know that this is both stressful and time-consuming.

Understanding what destitution in the UK means

It’s not right that anyone should have to face destitution. In our society, no-one should be left to go hungry, be unable to heat or light their home or live on the streets. Yet our research shows that around one and a half million people were destitute in the UK at some point during 2017, including over a third of a million children. This means they could not afford to have what we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean. One and a half million people locked out of the chance of building a decent and secure life.

Destitution means going without the bare essentials we all need. That’s a home, food, heating, lighting, clothing, shoes and basic toiletries. We define destitution as when people have lacked two or more of these essentials over the past month because they couldn’t afford them, or if their income is extremely low – less than £70 a week for a single adult. This definition is also based on what the general public agree destitution to be.

“To be destitute doesn’t just mean getting by on very little, it’s losing the ability to keep a roof over your head, eat often enough, or afford warm clothes when it’s cold. You can’t keep yourself clean or put the lights on. This shouldn’t happen to anybody, let alone over one and a half million people in the UK.

Other ways of thinking about poverty

Hidden homelessness

Many people who become homeless do not show up in official figures. This is known as hidden homelessness.

This includes people who become homeless but find a temporary solution by staying with family members or friends, living in squats or other insecure accommodation.

Research by the charity Crisis indicates that about 62% of single homeless people are hidden and may not show up in official figures.

A poll of 2,000 UK adults we commissioned in December 2013, found that 32% of people have experienced homelessness (including sofa surfing and staying with friends) or know someone who has experienced homelessness. 14% had experienced it themselves, 20% knew someone else who had experienced it, 2% said they had both experienced it and knew others who had.