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Food bank worker sorting a bread delivery.

Deep poverty and destitution

Insight into severe hardship and policies to tackle it, including destitution, deep poverty and going without the essentials.

Our mission

Everyone in our country should be able to at least afford life’s essentials, such as enough food and household bills. Having these essentials provides a foundation for people to live with dignity and build a better life.

JRF recognises that addressing hardship is essential to economic security, and is:

  • collaborating with The Trussell Trust on the Essentials Guarantee campaign which calls on UK political party leaders to support an Essentials Guarantee within Universal Credit to ensure, at a minimum, it always enables people to afford life’s essentials
  • developing other national policy recommendations to design out hardship
  • looking at what can be done locally (for example, building community power and emergency crisis support) to protect people from hardship and help them thrive.

Growing hardship

Not enough food. Can’t heat the house. No bed. Can’t pay the rent. Can’t afford the bus fare to go into town. Can’t afford to have a friend over for tea. Living in fear of the washing machine or fridge breaking down. Unable to sleep because of the stress and worry. These experiences have become all too common in our country, as poverty has deepened.

Experiencing such hardship impacts people’s physical health, mental health and social connections. It also makes it harder for children to learn and thrive. These consequences increase the cost and demand on our public services and prevent people from realising their potential.

Read our report on the impact of hardship on public services


3.8 million people (1 million of them children) experienced destitution, the most severe form of hardship, at some point in 2022. This means people are unable to meet their most basic physical needs to stay warm, dry, clean and fed.

The cost of living crisis has highlighted these experiences, but they are not new. Poverty has been deepening for more than a decade and, shamefully, the number of people experiencing destitution has more than doubled between 2017 and 2022.

Destitution in the UK

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.

Read our 2023 report

Turning the tide on deepening poverty

JRF believes that in the UK, we should all be protected from hardship. To ensure this protection, everybody needs:

  • a financial safety net that at least covers life’s essentials, so everyone can afford them without having to rely on charity
  • a place to call home with affordable rent that provides stability for people to build a life for themselves and their family
  • a social safety net that provides somewhere and someone to turn to in times of need and financial crisis
  • protection that is available to all (it shouldn’t matter who you are or where you come from, everyone should be protected from hardship)
  • an economy that offers secure and well-paid jobs as well as a housing market that provides enough affordable housing.