The modern destitute - credit public domain wikipedia

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is providing us with another one of their reports insisting that we’ve Victorian, or earlier, levels of poverty and abject destitution in the country. 1.5 million people in destitution they tell us! Another way of reading the very same report being that 8,000 or so young men will only have one meal today. Which way you are going to read this report, interpret the very same facts, will probably depend upon your political views.

Mine own being that we’ve not got any destitution in the UK and nothing close to it either. What we do have is some number of people with a great deal less than many others and not many of that some either. But it makes good poverty porn for The Guardian at least:

In an era of 24-hour news, there are still some stories that make you stop in your tracks. The research published today by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Heriot-Watt University is one such: more than 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK last year. That includes almost 650,000 with physical or mental health problems, and 365,000 children.

“Destitute” is one of those terms that conjures up the Victorian era – a living standard that’s so sparse, so uncivilised, it feels as if it belongs in a history textbook. That this is happening to anyone in the 21st century in one of the richest nations on Earth is shameful. But the scale of it is staggering: 1.5 million people. That’s more than the populations of Birmingham and Liverpool combined.

Note a certain shading here. We’re very close there to the assertion that 1.5 million people are in destitution for the year. Rather than the truth of the claim, which is that at some point during the year 1.5 million experienced a day or two of destitution. Note that that’s not me changing definitions, that is what the report itself claims:

The people affected by destitution
We estimate that approximately 1,550,000 people, 365,000 of them children, were destitute in UK at
some point in 2017. This estimate focuses exclusively on people in touch with crisis services whose
circumstances fitted a strict definition of destitution endorsed by the general public (see below).
Definition of destitution
People are destitute if:
a) They have lacked two or more of these six essentials over the past month, because they cannot afford
 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).

Elsewhere in the report they note that it is predominantly young single men affected, that this form of destitution has fallen 25% over the past year, that the major cause – or a major – is the incompetence of the state in handing out the free money it is supposed to be.

Do also note that 1.5 million over a year, that’s 4,000 a day, or because the without more than one meal a day must persist for two days, we can meet this by saying that 8,000 young men are on only one meal a day. I don’t know about you but I think that’s pretty good for government work really.

I also insist that it’s not destitution, that thing which we have – absent significant mental health or addiction problems – absolutely none of in modern Britain. The fact that we don’t being the reason they’re so desperately trying to redefine it so that we do of course.

Subscribe to The CT Mailer!

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
8 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
Southernerjohn77Bongojghbloke in spain Recent comment authors

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Let us not spend too much time on the numbers, because the top of the excerpt notes that it is all an “estimate,” a guess by people who know that a Guardian writer will give them notoriety for guessing high, and will ignore them should they mention that people who claim to be unable to afford food still get food, and so on. Especially the part of the “estimate” that the cause of their privation is “because they cannot afford them.” I do not believe leftie claims of causation, from the epidemic of police hunting blacks for sport, to man-caused… Read more »

Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat

I suspect there will be a lot more than 8000 people eating only one meal today. Most, like me, will be trying to reduce their waistline to a more manageable level.

bloke in spain
bloke in spain

Why are you showing a photo of the Green Party Conference delegates?

bloke in spain
bloke in spain

In all seriousness, though, I’ve known any number of people met those 6 conditions. Except maybe the rough sleeping one. Most of the time they’re meeting at least one of them. It’s not lack of money. Except in the sense they can’t be bothered to earn any. It’s that they spend it on other things. They live fucked up lives with their priorities all skewed. Don’t know what you do about people like that, bar locking them up for their own good. They’re simply dysfunctional. They don’t choose to live like that. But they certainly don’t choose not to.


Does sleeping in the back of your car count as sleeping rough? And they say “has happened at least once”. In which case I’ve done that three times when I’ve been about four hours from home and needed to get back to the local area the next day, so eight hour of driving just to remain in the same place.
Plus I can’t remember when I last had more than one meal a day.
And I’ve not heated my home since about March.


How do the researchers even know? And what counts as sleeping rough? The sodden tents outside Manchester Piccadilly station contain rough sleepers ( imv ), but if you dry out the same tent and sleep in it on Saddleworth Moor than you’re not a rough sleeper but a camper. There must be a grey area in between. The councils are harsh on young men though. My workplace locks the council owned covered bike shed at night because people might sleep in it. Fascist pigs. If they didn’t rough sleeping would still be rough but a little less so, and a… Read more »


Depending on how you define “young” 8,000 is more or less than 1 in a thousand. Without Arthur the cat’s motivation I get down to 1 meal a day several times a year when I can’t be bothered, so I don’t find that significant.
Some of the criteria do look sensible.
I believe that we DO have destitution in the UK but that nearly all of it due to the malign incompetence of those hired to prevent it or the choice made by individuals to forfeit the benefits that they could gain.


I have been told that the reason for sleeping rough is that the would-be smooth sleeper has been kicked out of their housing, whether privately or publicly provided, for being a disruptive, dirty and possibly violent anti-social tosser.