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When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Joseph Rowntree Foundation release interim report on Destitution in the UK

The Joseph Rowtree Foundation 'Destitution in the UK' programme aims to provide evidence about the extent of destitution, what causes it and whether it has changed over recent years. It is the largest study of its kind ever undertaken in the UK.

A definition of destitution

The interim report is the result of the first stages of the programme. A definition of destitution has been developed following literature reviews by a team at Heriot-Watt University, in conjunction with other experts across the UK and a survey of 2000 members of the public.

The research concluded that people are destitute if they lacked two or more of these six essentials over the past month, because they cannot afford them:

  • Shelter (have slept rough for one or more nights)
  • Food (have had fewer than two meals a day for two or more days)
  • Heating their home (have been unable to do this for five or more days)
  • Lighting their home (have been unable to do this for five or more days)
  • Clothing and footwear (appropriate for weather)
  • Basic toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush)

People are also destitute if their income is so low that they are unable to purchase these essentials for themselves.

The next stage

Using the agreed definition, the next stage of the programme is to find out the extent of destitution across the UK.

Ten locations were selected, one of which was Belfast. In each location, randomly selected organisations who work with groups at high risk of destitution were identified. Housing Rights is one of the organisations that have been asked to carry out the fieldwork in Northern Ireland on behalf of the JRF.  For one week at the end of April, Housing Rights will ask those availing of our advice service if they would take the time to answer some questions for this study. These surveys will be carried out at the same time in each selected location across the UK.

Following these surveys,  a small number of further in depth interviews will be carried out with respondents who have had direct experience of destitution. The findings of the research will be launched at end of 2015.


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Equality, Affordability

This article was written on 1 April 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.