In Depth Study: Poverty in the UK


1. Key Facts

2. Public's view

3. Food banks and breadlines

4. Organizations

5. Summary

6. Sources

1. Key facts

Poverty in the UK is growing. Nearly 60% of people living in poverty are homeowners, which mean a lot of children are living in poverty. At Bristol University they found that the proportion of households lacking three activities or items seen as necessary for a normal life in the UK has increased from 14 percent in 1983 to 33 percent in 2012.[1]

There is no one definition of what poverty is. The most used one is the one described in the Child Poverty Act 2010. It says: ?household income below 60% of median income?. Also, there are three other definitions describing absolute poverty, relative poverty and social exclusion.

Absolute poverty is defined as not having enough resources to meet basic needs, such as food or clothes.[2] It is mostly used to describe third world countries, and does therefore not really apply to the people in the UK. What does concern the British people, is the definition of relative poverty. This defines resources in comparison to the average income. It is described as: ?the absence of the material needs to participate fully in accepted daily life.?[3]

Social exclusion is a term used by the Government of the UK. This is a relatively new term, and describes an individual or an area that suffer from unemployment, high crime rates, poor housing, family breakdowns and health problems.


This statistic shows the poverty rate by ethnicity in the UK, comparing studies performed in 2001-2004 with studies from 2009-2012. You can see the percentages of white households are much lower than in black British ones. However, the percentage of black households has decreased over the years. The same goes for the Asian and white ones. On the other hand, the column for ?other? and ?mixed? has increased. As seen, the ?other? column actually exceeds 40 percent, which is a huge number.

2. Public?s view

The Joseph Raintree Foundation made a video about the public?s view on poverty in the UK, according to a study made by Ipsos Mori.[5] It showed that the increasing percentage of people in poverty is alarming to the public. With job insecurities, the cost of living, increased rents, childcare costs and pay cuts, the fear of ending up in poverty is real. Even though there is raised awareness about the subject, the breadlines are growing.

Furthermore, the public do not believe the relative poverty line reflects reality or captures what it means to be poor. This is because the term ?poverty? has different meanings to people. Some connects poverty with food banks and breadlines, debt, unemployment, famine or disability. Others think of poverty as homelessness, need or welfare cuts.

The general opinion, which most people agree on, is that people who live in poverty is not able to pay for food, housing, light or heat. It means not having choices and being trapped by your situation. Moreover, poverty is seen as not knowing there could be a better life, and having a small or non-existent social network. They also agree that the situation gets worse over time.

Policies created by the government of the UK, like welfare and child support, does not strike the general public as helpful. Even though without it, the percentage of people in poverty would probably increase. They believe it does not tackle the causes of poverty, and that the government should make policies that are only targeting those in need. Suggestions are: cuts in the cost of living, creating job opportunities and getting people into jobs with fair wage. Also, tax breaks are thought to increase wages, creating better paid jobs. In addition, the public believe it is worth fighting against poverty.


3. Breadlines and food banks

A food bank is a non-profit organization that hands out food to those in need. It is provided to avoid hunger and food deprivation.[6] From late 2010, a lot of food banks have opened due to the financial crisis. In January 2014 there were about 1,000 UK food banks. Before this financial crisis, the UK had not really heard much about food banks. After a couple of years, in a May 2013 report by Oxfam and Church action on poverty, they estimated that about half a million Britons had been in the breadlines. After cuts in welfare in April 2013, the demand for food banks increased. Churches host most of them, together with the public, schools, businesses and individuals.[7]

?Breadline Britain? has become an expression after a study book written by economist Stewart Lansley and academic Joanna Mack. They have carried out the largest survey of poverty ever in the UK. The results were shocking to many. It showed that that three and a half million adults go hungry, due to the fact that they have children to feed. One in five children does not live in safe houses. In addition, on in ten children do not have warm clothes.[8] Therefore, breadlines are growing today as well.

4. Organizations

There are organizations that use a lot of resources on fighting poverty in the UK. One of them is Oxfam, who is an authority on fighting poverty and crisis worldwide.[9] In the UK, they focus on food poverty and extreme inequality. Since the five wealthiest families in the UK are richer than twenty percent of the population combined, this had become a major issue to the organization.[10] They work together with another organization called Glyncoch Regeneration Partnership helps parents who have children in primary school. Their work is about helping parents raise their own aspirations, boost their confidence and help them attain new skills that can reflect on their children. This is to tackle the causes of poverty.

As mentioned, they are also fighting hunger in the UK. Oxfam works with several organizations to be able to feed as many as possible, such as the Trussell Trust food bank network. The number of free meals delivered to the poor is two million. Together with FairShare, they redistribute excessive food from the food industry to communities and homeless shelters.

The Joseph Raintree Foundation is one of the largest social policy research charities in the UK. They focus a lot on poverty, and have over 100 reports on UK poverty and disadvantages. [11] According to their website, their goal is to research the causes of social problems and to develop solutions. In addition, they work with the Joseph Raintree Housing Trust to use their abilities for the greater good. They do this to influence policy, practice and public debate.[12]

Their current work includes researching on poverty and education and child poverty, as well as monitoring poverty and social exclusion. JRF are tracking the polls on child poverty, and the factors affecting the changes in the percentage of children living below the median in the UK. They believe the only way to fight child poverty is to make new policies that target the youngest, teaching them skills together with their parents, developing better childcare, and giving out benefits and tax credits.

5. Summary

To summarize, poverty in the UK are, as mentioned, growing. The need for food banks are increasing rapidly and over half a million has seen the need to visit one. Luckily, there are organizations who work towards fighting the root of poverty, creating more food banks and teaching skills to parents and children. The general public in the UK do not believe government policies are helpful, and calls for policies that directly target the poor.

In closing, the focus tends to be on child poverty and food deprivation. Bad housing, debt and other issues are important as well, but it is the most urgent ones who are in the media. Therefore, causing the help given to target those two groups.

6. Sources



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18, Kvam

Her poster eg arbeid fr English Social Studies.