Destitution in the UK has established the first firm evidence base on the scale, causes, distribution and experiences of people living in destitution in this country.

The first major study, undertaken by I-SPHERE on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2016,  defined an entirely new research agenda.

In 2018 our second report was published, followed by the 3rd major study in 2020 and 4th in 2023.

Key Findings

Our work has established the definition of destitution: People who have lacked two or more of 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) and
  • Basic toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush), or
  • Had an income that was so low, and no savings, so that they would be likely to lack these essentials in the immediate future.

The fourth report in the Destitution in the UK series, reveals approximately 3.8 million people experienced destitution in 2022, including around one million children. This is almost two-and-a-half times the number of people in 2017, and nearly triple the number of children. There is an urgent need for action to tackle destitution in the UK.

You can find full details of our reports and JRF policy recommendations at Destitution in the UK 2023 | JRF


Destitution in the UK is informing policy and practice across the UK and beyond.

I-SPHERE’s research on destitution has given the research, policy and advocacy community for the first time the tools for understanding the extent of this serious problem across the UK. Combining large-scale primary quantitative evidence with in-depth qualitative insights and the innovative use of secondary data has provided a robust basis for understanding causes and, therefore, for developing practical areas for solutions.

Chris Goulden Deputy director, Policy and Research, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The reports have also attracted significant media coverage and have been debated in Parliament.