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The impoverishment of the UK

This morning the Guardian published the first headline results from the Poverty and Social Exclusion project.

These results are very worrying. Our data shows that 33% of British households lacked at least three basic living necessities in 2012, compared with 14% in 1983. These include living in adequately heated homes, eating healthily, and owning basic clothing items such as properly fitting shoes.

  • Around 4 million adults and almost 1 million children lack at least one basic item of clothing, such as a warm winter coat, while 3 million adults of working age (including over a fifth of those looking for work) cannot afford appropriate clothes for a job interview.
  • Roughly 4 million children and adults are not fed properly judged against what most people consider to be a minimally acceptable diet – meaning they do not eat three meals a day, including fresh fruit, meat, fish and vegetables. Over a quarter of all adults skimped on meals so others in their households could eat.
  • About 11 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions and nearly one in ten households are unable to afford to fully heat their home.

The project measures who and how many people fall below what the majority agree are “necessities for life” in the UK today. The list of necessities also includes consumer items such as a washing machine and a telephone, and social activities like visiting friends and family in hospital.

“The results present a remarkably bleak portrait of life in the UK today and the shrinking opportunities faced by the bottom third of UK society,” said the head of the project, Professor David Gordon of Bristol University. “Moreover this bleak situation will get worse as benefit levels fall in real terms, real wages continue to decline and living standards are further squeezed.”

The first results from the PSE: UK 2012 study will be broadcast on ITV at 7.30pm on Thursday, 28 March in a special ‘Tonight’ programme on ‘Breadline Britain’. The first report from the PSE UK team ‘The impoverishment of the UK’  will be published on the PSE website.

The Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) Project is is the largest and most authoritative study of poverty and deprivation ever conducted in the UK. Within the research team, Glen Bramley and  Kirsten Besemer  are particularly responsible for analysing results which relate to local services, housing, neighbourhood, education and financial inclusion, and the way poverty in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK. You can follow the latest updates from the PSE team on Twitter: 


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. At the Poverty Assembly in Glasgow this week (lead organiser Poverty Alliance Scotland) I found a palpable sense of deep anxiety among many participants on the impact of the UK Coalition Govt’s welfare ‘reforms’. This anxiety was shared by: individuals eligible for welfare support; workers in the field; activists and politicians (Conservatives not represented when I attended and I’m not sure that the LibDems were either?)
    I appreciate that at such an event one will expect to hear strong and even raw feelings and opinions expressed – but this time there did seem to be an extra sharp edge. I almost wondered if in my exchanges whether I could detect, in a few instances, near-panic. To find that this is reflected in the researched evidence from the likes of the Poverty and Exclusion Unit is indeed ‘very worrying’.

    March 28, 2013
    • It is a bad situation, especially since many reforms are still to be implemented. Changes to the housing and council tax benefit system will add to the effects of the previous tax, benefit and public expenditure cuts. The current situation is very serious already, but the cumulative income loss from further welfare reforms affecting poor households could lead to much higher poverty levels.

      March 28, 2013

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