Nearly a third of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) clients have lived in destitution, according to analysis conducted by the charity.
It found 32 percent of the people it helped went without two or more out of six essentials on a regular basis, including shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing and footwear, and basic toiletries such as soap, shampoo and toothpaste.
Food and heat were most frequently compromised by families experiencing destitution. More than a third (37 percent) also lived without lighting at least once a week.
Experiencing destitution is linked to high levels of social isolation and impacts both physical and mental health. Debt repayments also contribute to destitution, with many households at risk of court fines and enforcement action for debts they cannot repay. Half of destitute households are in rent or mortgage arrears and face the risk of homelessness.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimates that there are 1.5 million people in the UK who are destitute and have accessed a support service in the past year.
“At times we had no food in the house,” said one CAP client, Olly. “We couldn’t even afford a loaf of bread. Once we ran out of milk and I ended up early in the morning waiting around for the milkman and taking a bottle from someone’s house. I felt so guilty. I couldn’t see another way.”
Olly is a dad of five and was unable to find work for several years because of his health.
“You feel bad as you can’t get a job. You don’t know when your next bit of money is coming in. You’re in a spiral that you think you will never get out of. There was never any money to pay the bills. Sometimes I’d have to juggle the money round if there wasn’t enough, and decide between whether to spend the money on electricity or food that week – that’s how bad it got.”
According to CAP’s report, people typically struggle with debt for one or two years before seeking help.
It also found clients who had experienced destitution had other challenging circumstances on top of their financial struggles. A third (34 percent) of households who had experienced destitution were lone parent families. Nearly two in three (62 percent) reported having mental ill health, as well as more than a third having a physical disability. A quarter (24 percent) had a serious or terminal illness and one in five (20 percent) had a learning difficulty.