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.