Poverty has many faces.  I-SPHERE has a strong presence in mainstream poverty research, exemplified by involvement in the ESRC Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (Bramley & Bailey 2018), work ‘Poverty and Housing through the Lifecourse’ (Stephens et al 2016), and multiple inputs into the Joseph Rowntree ‘Solve UK Poverty’ strategy, including work on ‘Counting the Cost of Poverty’. We have developed a particular specialism in measuring and understanding the more extreme end of poverty, notably through pathbreaking studies of Destitution in the UK (also for JRF) which estimated that 1.5 million people experience this each year, and an ongoing research programme on The State of Hunger (Trussell Trust), which is monitoring and profiling food poverty across the UK. Fuel poverty has also been a focus, with a significant change in the Scottish approach to defining this advanced based on our analysis of adverse outcomes. We are seeking to bring measurement of severe poverty, as it affects many people (e.g. homeless, sofa surfers) who are not covered by conventional household surveys, into the mainstream of UK statistics. In the coming period, we anticipate more focus on poverty as it affects children and young people and the interface with education.

The table provides a summary of key recent research projects in this field.  For publications see our Publications section.

TitleAboutDatesFunderLead Researcher(s)Link
Digital Exclusion in EducationThe project uses data from a national online e-learning service (SCHOLAR) covering 97% of publicly-funded secondary schools in Scotland. This developmental project will analyse SCHOLAR data to investigate patterns of digital inequalities for young people across Scotland in relation to school and area socio-economic status, as measured by free school meal registration and area deprivation.2021-2022Nuffield FoundationMorag TreanorFurther Information
Social Innovation Partnership Learning ProgrammeThe Social Innovation Partnership (SIP) invests and supports social enterprises in Scotland who use a variety of approaches to support people in crisis, but all are developing innovative models that take ar elationalapproach to welfare, supporting people to develop their capabilities, enhance their well-being, and improve the scope for them to move out of poverty. This learning programme aims to understand the extent to which models that take this relational and capability-enhancing approach are successful, and are suitable for scaling up. Based on this evaluation activity, the learning programme will then draw out broader lessons about the development of a capability-based approach to public service delivery, and the extent to which such an approach is effective in realising policy objectives to reduce poverty, address disadvantage and improve wellbeing.2019-2022The Hunter FoundationSuzanne Fitzpatrick and Sam ThomasFull Report
Gender MattersFollowing on from Hard Edges, this study set out to establish the statistical profile of women affected by severe and multiple disadvantage in England.2019Lankelly Chase FoundationSarah Johnsen, Glen Bramley and Filip SosenkoFull Report
The State of HungerThe landscape of food aid in the UK has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The State of Hunger is the largest ever study into hunger and food bank use in the UK. This research for the Trussell Trust is designed to help understand the scale of hunger and destitution in the UK and learn how we can work together to build a hunger free future.2018-2021Trussell TrustMorag TreanorFurther Information
Social Policy in a Divided BritainA partnership research programme for the Nuffield Foundation to provide an authoritative, independent and rigorous assessment of social policies and distributional outcomes in 21st century Britain. The research resulted in the report – The Conservative Governments’ Record on Social Policy from May 2015 to pre-COVID 2020: Policies, spending and outcomes An assessment of social policies and social inequalities on the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic.2018-2021The Nuffield FoundationSuzanne FitzpatrickFurther Information
Homelessness and destitution in Newcastle – Exploring the role of the ‘local state’ in the context of austerity and welfare reformThis study aims to illuminate how Newcastle’s ‘local state’ (NCC and key partners) has responded to the combined welfare reform, austerity and homelessness prevention challenges to date, and to consider how local policy and resources might best be deployed to address these challenges in the years ahead.2018-2019Newcastle City CouncilBeth WattsFull Report
Counting the Cost of PovertyThis research estimates the more tangible cost that poverty brings to society, specifically in the form of the cost to the public purse. It illustrates the magnitude of the cost of poverty in order to show the kinds of savings that a sustained reduction in poverty could bring. It also looks at some longer-term consequences of poverty to the Treasury, in terms of reduced revenues and increased benefit payments to people whose earnings potential will be damaged in the future by the experience of poverty today2016Joseph Rowntree FoundationGlen BramleyFull Report
Destitution in the UKDestitution in the UK 2015 established the first firm evidence base on the scale, causes and experiences of destitution in this country. Through similar studies undertaken in 2017 and 2020 based on in-depth case studies on destitution in 18 locations the programme of research highlights increasing levels of destitution, throwing light on the trends, reasons and real life experiences of people living in destitution in the UK.2015-2021Joseph Rowntree FoundationSuzanne FitzpatrickFurther Information
Scottish Government Local Income Household ModelThis project involved local level synthetic income modelling research for the year 2014 that has been prepared for the Scottish Government by Heriot Watt University in association with David Simmonds Consultancy. The results provide gross household income distribution estimates at Data Zone level for 2014 for use in housing affordability analyses.2015-2018Scottish GovernmentGlen BramleyData
Review and Update of the Indices of Deprivation 2015This project involved updating the Housing Affordability Indicator for the review and update of indices of deprivation, England 2015.2015Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local GovernmentGlen BramleyFull Report
Welfare Conditionality, sanctions, support and behaviour changeThe use of conditional welfare arrangements that combine elements of sanction and support is an established element within welfare, housing, criminal justice and immigration systems. This five year research project creates a collaborative, international and interdisciplinary focal point for social science research on welfare conditionality by exploring the efficacy and ethicality of conditionality across social policy fields and diverse groups of welfare service users. On the back of this work Heriot Watt’s Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick also produced a book for the Routledge Key Ideas series.2013-2018ESRCSuzanne FitzpatrickFull Report
Homelessness MonitorThe Homelessness monitor is a longditudinal study commissioned by Crisis and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The monitor defines ‘core’ and ‘wider’ homelessness and measures the scale of these phenomena for England, Wales and Scotland, as well as forecasting future trends. It examines the impact of policy and legislation on homelessness across the UK.2011-2021CrisisGlen Bramley and Suzanne FitzpatrickFurther Information