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Is there such a thing as "severe poverty" in the UK?

306 replies

Niceguy2 · 25/03/2011 23:45

I'm being serious. I'm not talking about poor. Obviously there are plenty of people who either are poor or think they are. But I mean severe poverty.

I just read the Save the Children child poverty report which claims that 1.6million children live in severe poverty. And they define "severe poverty" as a family of 1 child who has an income of less than £7000 (or 2 kids with income < £12k).

But a quick tot up of benefits tells me that a family with 1 child would get the following each year:

Income Support £3412
Tax Credits £2850
Child Benefit £1055
Total 7317

And that's before you take into account housing benefit, council tax, free school dinners etc etc. So to me, no UK family should fall into that definition.

Then the report goes on to say they say someone is living in poverty if basic necessities are not met such as not "having enough shoes", not being able to pay for "home contents insurance" or children missing out on "having friends round" or "school trips".

When I hear "poverty" I think of children living in the streets with no food, not being unable to go on a school trip!

So given all that, is there such a thing as severe poverty in the UK? Or is it as I suspect that some families just can't manage their money?

I'm not trying to argue that £7k is a lot of money. I'm just saying that if that's the definition and the state gives you more, then surely there isn't such a thing?

OP posts:
amummyinwaiting · 27/03/2011 15:03

well said TheJollyPirate !

meditrina · 27/03/2011 15:43

I am leaving this thread now, and probably keeping off all future threads.

I invite posters who do not take a global view, and are not prepared to be grateful that in UK we are the lucky ones, to look back at some of the Red Nose Week threads or International Women's Day threads.

To think about places where there is no clean water, no food, no schools, no roof over your head at all; no safety even to sleep because the local warlords are rounding up children and forcing them into the militia. Think about no hospitals, and childbirth being a common cause of death. Think about watching your child die of malaria because a £1 net is way beyond your means and dreams. To think about slavery and people trafficking, enforced prostitution and selling one child in the hope you can meet the needs of the rest.

Then please, if you would, think about why ill-defined "severe" poverty might not be a welcome term. Absolute poverty, as internationally defined does not exist in UK. There are millions who would thinks all there dreams had come at once should they have the chance to come to even the shittiest conditions here.

As I posted above, I do not see the ills of relative deprivation as insignificant in any way and agree fully there effects can be severe.

I can never, through personal working experience, equate the conditions in UK with absolute poverty.

I can however see this is an isolated and unpopular on MN, and bow out.

TwoIfBySea · 27/03/2011 15:53

When I think of severe poverty I do think of children living in slums with barely enough to eat.

Perhaps in this country, with the benefits system, it is more emotional poverty than financial? Although there are some shocking living standards in some areas we have sanitary conditions to other countries. Anyway, I think some people cannot cope with life and unfortunately the children are brought up in a neglectful and poisonous atmosphere - to be honest that doesn't take into count the wealth of the parent but it does seem to occur more often in households where benefits have destroyed any ambition.

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 27/03/2011 15:54

Well, I've lived (and still have friends and (ex) family living there) in a poor country. I have also witnessed absolute poverty first hand, however I can not feel comfortable with the idea that those living in relative poverty in the UK should thank their lucky stars. It just doesn't work that way.

When I met exH he had only just found a job after having lived in absolute poverty for quite some time due to the death of his mother. We then also lived in pretty dire straits (our income din't even cover the rent let alone anything else and there were no benefits to help us out) before we moved (back for me) to the UK. Many of exH's family live poverty, not absolute poverty in that countries terms, but certainly compard to poverty in the UK it would be absolute.

However, (thankfully!) he and a few of his other family that have moved to the UK don't have the atitude that "well it's not as bad for poor people here as it is back home so they should think themselves lucky" - it just doesn't work that way - otherwise where does it end?

Should the distant relative we visited back in 2006, solely reliant on the generosity of the rest of the family to survive, living in her very rickety, and in desperate need of repairs (and a bath that could be used too), with holes in her shoes, and only one pair of battered old shoes thank her lucky stars that at least she has running water in her house, and a roof over her head - as there are others in her country and around the world even more worse off than her??

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 27/03/2011 16:05

"Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one?s food or a job to earn one?s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.
?United Nations"

"Poverty is pronounced deprivation in well-being, and comprises many dimensions. It includes low incomes and the inability to acquire the basic goods and services necessary for survival with dignity. Poverty also encompasses low levels of health and education, poor access to clean water and sanitation, inadequate physical security, lack of voice, and insufficient capacity and opportunity to better one?s life.
?World Bank"

"overty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services. It includes a lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increased morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments and social discrimination and exclusion. It is also characterized by lack of participation in decision making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries: as mass poverty in many developing countries, pockets of poverty amid wealth in developed countries, loss of livelihoods as a result of economic recession, sudden poverty as a result of disaster or conflict, the poverty of low-wage workers, and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets.
? World Summit on Social Development"

I'd say there are elements mentioned in all 3 of those definitions well and truly in play in the UK

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 27/03/2011 16:06

I did once find an even better, more conicse definition of it that really did encompass everything - but I can't find it

Thistledew · 27/03/2011 16:28

I would say that having no legal source of income, no secure accommodation and no access to healthcare would be a fairly good definition of poverty. There are many people living in these conditions in the UK.

claig · 27/03/2011 16:29

What about the homeless who sleep rough in freezing condiitions, without a possession to their name? They are as poor as people in the third world.

The Ralph McTell song, 'Streets of London' gives a glimpse into that world

Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper
With his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
Hand held loosely at his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news

Chorus: so how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of london
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of london
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She's no time for talking
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags


In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven
Same old man is sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup
Each tea lasts an hour
Then he wanders home alone


Have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman's mission
Memory fading with the medal ribbons that he wears
In our winter city
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care

NorthernGobshite · 27/03/2011 16:33

Yes there is 'severe poverty' in this country. Have you lived on benefits? Have you been into the home of someone who lives in poverty? Have you met anyone homeless?

claig · 27/03/2011 16:42

What about the people in Okehampton relying on food parcels from charities to survive? There ar 60,000 in a similar situation in the country. Why is it only charities that are helping them? Where is the State? They have paid contributions over their working lives? Why are there no appeals on national TV for them? Why are they the "hidden hungry"? Is it because it would shame the country?

What about the woman who says

'I've been used to hard work and steady wages, but I haven't been paid since December and within weeks I was below the fuel poverty line (when a household has to spend more than 10 per cent of income to keep adequately warm).

The shock was terrible. For years, I've given to international aid charities and to suddenly be on the receiving end was very traumatic. But what really made me cry was the fact that people were helping. We'd felt so isolated, but now everyone was rallying round.'

All the publicity has flushed out the 'hidden hungry' ? struggling farmers previously too proud to ask for help; single parents who didn't know where to turn; low-income families hit by a one-off expense.

claig · 27/03/2011 16:45

What about an appeal for the homeless in this country? What about building cheap homes from the money collected? Why does it continue in the same way year after year, while fat cat bankers are knighted, count their bonuses and drink champagne?

SardineQueen · 27/03/2011 17:08

In December I came into contact through my work with a family of 4 who were sleeping in a park.

Fucking lucky bastards eh.

Threads like this make me want to throw something, I see the Tory trolls are out in forceHmm

Their basic message, I think, is fuck the poor, even the children.

HHLimbo · 28/03/2011 02:26
claig · 28/03/2011 07:54

Another good video of the Ralph McTell song with an extra verse and pictures that tell the story

Niceguy2 · 28/03/2011 12:07

Sorry all, I posted this then got busy all weekend so haven't been back.

I agree with whoever said there's relative poverty and absolute poverty. And the word "severe" conjures up all sorts of images but when you look at the detail, the truth is somewhat different.

I didn't start this thread to benefit bash but something I'm genuinely interested in finding out opinions on. I know living on benefits is not easy for the vast majority. But many do it.

Because absolute poverty is sickening and I've seen enough of it. That's why I find it very hard to sympathise with those in the UK moaning about their "meagre" benefits.

Other than that, poverty is a relative measure so its impossible to fix other than ensure everyone earns exactly the same.

OP posts:
BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 12:29

you see the problem is - that your're assuming that it's only those on benefits who are living in poverty (and forgetting that many who recieve benefits are actually working), there are plenty of working families who live in poverty - often because they don't tick the right boxes (or are too ashamed/proud to claim).

I too have seen absolute poverty some of my exIL's live in it. It is shocking, but it doesn't make the relative poverty of the UK any less worse. Likewise my exIL's living in relative poverty in their own countries (far below the standards we would consider "acceptable" here) don't think they live in poverty, as there are others worse off than themselves in the same country.

Poverty is a very wide ranging term, and isn't just about money and material goods, it's about opportunity too, health, educatin and so much more.

My oldest exSIL (now living in the UK) has retrained since she came to the UK - to become a Family Support Worker - working with families in poverty - so obviously it's not quite so cut and dried.

I generally do ok on benefits, I get by, and because I budget extremely strictly (and exH took the debt with him so I came ont them with a totally clean shhet - a very very fortunate position indeed). However this morning I had a major panic on, my washing machine stopped working, There is no laundrette nearby (there is one the other side of town I believe) and it's expensive anyhow, and I have no means of getting there other than taxi. I couldn't afford a call out. Thankfully I have a good educatin behind me, and grew up in a family where aspiriation was encouraged, plus of course I've got internet access - so I was able to get online and find the information I needed to fix it myself.

The alternatives - laundrette and call out were out of the question - just not enough money to do that. If it had been a serious prblem that I couldn't fix (or couldn't be fixed!) I'd have been well and truly screwed.

The thing with those on low wages, and benefits who aren't so fortunate as I is that thse sorts of situations will arise regularly, the children's shoes will need replacing, the oven breaks, the light bulbs blow. They can't afford to put the heating on in their inadequate housing, mould grows, and health care issues arise,

Just because absolute poverty in the 3rd world is worse in terms of basic needs doesn't mean there aren't some similarities.

Too many people think that

Poverty=purely a lack of cash.

If it were really that simple we should just be able to thrw cash at all the poverty stricken areas of the world and all would be hunky dory............

expatinscotland · 28/03/2011 13:12

Well said, Baroque.

ThisIsANiceCage · 28/03/2011 13:22
fanjoforthemammaries7850 · 28/03/2011 13:27

If there isn't severe poverty here then surely that is a good thing, not an
indication that people have it too easy? ( oh Tory trolls)

fanjoforthemammaries7850 · 28/03/2011 13:28

Can't believe people are pitchfork waving about a lack of poverty tbh

alemci · 28/03/2011 13:34

glad you could fix your washing machine Baroque. i hear what you are saying.

Also food banks are being set up in towns because there are problems with people being hungry and not just people on benefits. i think in Tavistock in Devon there was a problem as the factories closed and it has a knock on effect on everyone.

I do think however that some people are careless with money and bring situations on themselves at times. i.e. wasting money on cigarettes or being snobby about 2nd hand clothes. I remember the 2nd hand uniform sale at the primary school where my children were and one boy being really rude about it and saying it was Oxfam. he was one of the children with a parent on benefits.

I was always very appreciative of hand me downs because although we were not on benefits (hubby earned too much on paper) we were hard up and my mum in law used to give us £100 a month to help. we had no money, a mortgage and 3 young children but things do change

edam · 28/03/2011 13:36

Good post, Baroque.


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BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 13:47

but that's the point Fanjo - we do have poverty in the UK!

Unless of course \link{\Oxfam}, \link{\Save the Children} and the likes are making it all up.

Lets not forget that these are charities that work in countries with absolute poverty - so they have a prettty good idea what poverty is.........yet they can recognise it exists in the UK - so why are so many people so willing to dismiss if the "big names" won't?

Comic Relief - that we've just had recently - also work in the UK......

fanjoforthemammaries7850 · 28/03/2011 13:50

Baroque, yes, I agree, but some posters were saying there isn't as people scrounge too much etc..

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 13:52

ahh sorry misunderstood you Fanjo - I was off on one and on a mission Grin

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