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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:
TheSecondComing · 28/03/2011 18:54

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BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 18:55

"Poverty is not just about not having money, its about lack of oppurtunity and being marginalised from society."

Absolutely, spot on.

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 18:57

Tskkk TSC - what do you mean literate and intelligent - you're poor - you must be thick and illiterate Wink

SanctiMoanyArse · 28/03/2011 19:00

Ah Baroque but you're Mn royalty (and I mentioned you on THAT Fb club just now LOL) so you an get away with it Wink

Don;t worry, just because Id on;t do it I don;t think others mustn't, but I don;t see why we shoudl be labelled with whatever prejudice people ahve either IYSWIM.

Anyhow I know your story adn why thinsg ended up as they did, I also know how adament you'd never end up on benefits pre ds3 and what happened toc asue that so frankly I think you've done amazing to be so strong and give your boys such a happy life.
IMO there difference between someone who wants to work and is working towards that and someone who woudln't if they could is key. Everything else is just silly stereotyping. Like FS tv's- I eman, people do get tings BEFORE they lose jobs, or are loaned things, given them by family etc. Nobody turns up with a big van the day you get your P45 to take everything you earned and replace it with old stuff. Indeed, ds4 has a Cath Kidston coat- bought from my earnings- and so far I have not noted a ruling that says I ahve to trade it in for Primark Wink (mind lining has a blood stain so they wouldn't want it back anyway- shoudl he wear a sign stating that I wonder? ....)

silverfrog · 28/03/2011 19:07

I grew up in severe poverty.

we were homeless (has "temporary" emergency housing - for over 4 years! was supposed ot be 6 months max.). we frequently could not afford electricity - can you imagine having to go to school and say you haven't done your homework because there was no light? (in winter, obv). I used to sit by the window trying to read by the light of the streetlight down the road.

to make it worse, I was at a private school (full scholarship. transport paid by bursary). so to have to say things like that really did make me stand out.

we often had no food.

I remember one half term, when I was about 15, when all I had to eat for 4 days was a jar of peanut butter and the end of a box of cornflakes. god only knows what my mother did for food for those few days (was the end of the month, although our "normal" food situation was not much better).

we had no electrical items that owuld be counted as standard - no computer (woudl have been games consoles in those days, twas before the home internet epidemic!), no tv. no phone (landline, obv). we did have a radio. my peers at school could not comprehend my existence.

I wore my brothers hand me downs (a great look as a teen!), and only had the one pair of shoes, which usually had holes in.

our accommodation was as others have described - damp, cramped, with mould growing on the walls and rain pouring through the roof.

if you have ever read "Twopence to cross the Mersey" - that was pretty much how we lived, with obvious modern differences (like decimalisation Grin)

we had no washing machine, and could not afford the launderette most of the time (probably about once every 2 months). my mother and I hand washed everything in the bath (usually in cold water). the niceties of life, such as sheets for the beds, soon went by the wayside as we could not get them washed or dried.

this was not that long ago, and I have little doubt that such situations continue today.

anyone who says the severe poverty does not exist in this country has not experienced life, is all I can say.

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 19:10

Royalty you say? Damn someone must have stolen my crown before I was even given it as I've never seen sight nor sound of it!!!!

tazmosis · 28/03/2011 19:18

OK Maypole that's the couple of thousand (max) people who have had 10 kids. What about the rest?

I am very fortunate to have been born with the ability to function in society the way we are expected to. I've a full time relatively secure job, as does my DH. My kids are lucky enough to go on their school trips, to have decent shoes. I am able to buy decent food and enough of it each week.

BUT I know how a huge number of people in this country live, kids not getting breakfast, getting chips for tea if they're lucky. Not getting any affection or being cared for properly. Read about Shannon Matthews - yes her mum had multiple children - should she and her siblings be punished for that? What would you do with families like this - put them in a workhouse? Or do we try to give everyone a relatively decent standard of living and then try to educate the children so they know better.

What about adults totally decimated by mental illness or other illness. People who are illiterate and can't budget. People who don't have the ability to deal with officialdom. People who have only known cruelty and abuse when growing up and so only know how to pass on that same cruelty and abuse.

Wake up love - not everyone lives a charmed life. Not everyone is capable and able. Not everyone understands how to make life work for them. And sometimes life just throws a capable and able person a curved ball - that knocks them for 6 - it can take an age to recover.

As a society we owe these people help and support - how you move people on and allow them to flourish is through hard work and education. Talk to people in DWP who have run pilots in poor areas going out and working with the long term unemployed - this costs us money but really does get results. Just pulling the rug will just end up in...well I can't bear to think. And there - but for the grace of god - goes every single one of us. Even you Maypole.

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 19:45

Well said tazmosis.

I have just been reminded, off MN, of my views when I first joined MN back in 2004/early 2005. I used to say the blanket "on benefits - get a job". Life threw exH and I that curved ball later in 2005 (though we never went onto benefits or claimed what we were entitled to at the time and lived horrendously for some time as a results). Since then life has thrown me personally a couple of mre curved balls, the subsequent curved balls have been easier (mentally) to cope with (in general). BUt it was that first curved ball that really shook me up, I fell off my little pedestal and, even though not actually claiming any benefits, had a very hard, very sharp shock. It was a wake-up cal.

I don't think I ever denied poverty existed in this country, but I failed to see the arguments about why/how it existed, especially given my 2 1/2yrs living in a country where absolute poverty existed (And actually we were very very poor for a short period of time (about 8 months, the last 4 months of that especially bad) there as well - scary times those were).

It was only when the realities smacked me fair and square in the face that I opened my eyes and started to see. Then the curved balls kept coming and I saw more and more, and now, well.........for starters PLEASE can the bowler just throw some normal balls of me at least for a year or 2.......I'm back on my feet, just, but then rather like tamosis, I had a good education behind me, I'm (fairly) intelligent, and literate (though my English writing skills often leave a lot to be desired Wink). And I'm hoping to get a little of the foundations to a better life (like I used to have ) back in place later this year with a job.

However, it's a pretty depressing thought to know that, unless I hit the employment jackpot, I will stilll be heavily reliant on benefits to maintain a basic standard of living for my DS's.

I dream of the day when (like this morning) I look at the DS's school trousers and realise they're riding above the ankles, and then in the afternoon, after school, or at the weekend I go out and replace them straight away. Instead, despite my "comfortable" (by my standards - which I hasten to add are quite low - 2 weeks in a council flat, and 1 week in someone elses house was a bloody dream holiday for us last year Grin) I've had to telll DS2 that I'll replace his new trousers during the Easter holidays.

I dream of a day I get a letter home about a school trip, and then at the next opportunity to visit an ATM I withdraw the cash and send it in, instead of ticking the "my child will be going on this trip and I will send the money in at some point before a date 5 weeks away".

I dream of the day when DS2 and 3 won't rely solely on handed down clothes from DS1. Especially as when DS1 outgrows something it goes through the wash, and then goes straight onto DS2. They don't complain, but sometimes a DS3 (3) will have a "new" (handed down) top on and DS1/2 will say "I remember wearing that" (DS1 and 2 are 10 and 7).

I dream of the day when I will pay all my rent, and bills, and buy food entirely with mney that I've will happen one day...............maybe

Jogon · 28/03/2011 20:22

I would call severe poverty having no bedding, or bed even- just a filthy stained mattress on the floor, that you share with another sibling; no curtains at the window; having just 1 set of school uniform that is ill fitting, and only washed once a week so often grubby, food-covered, stained etc; shoes that are too big, too small, full of holes/sole coming off them; having no books anywhere in the house, no more than a couple of toys either; no access to dental care (because there are no free nhs dentists anywhere within a reasonable radius, and travelling for the whole family to the nearest surgery would be 1/4 of a week's food bill); relying on food parcels from charities, and clothing parcels too when available.

I have seen children living in conditions like these- in the UK, present time.

Brilliant disguise - why is there poverty like this? If you look at the figires already posted no one should be living like this.

maypole1 · 28/03/2011 21:15

Jargon because their parents are inept their are plenty of families as people we know who don't live in dirty houses with no foods and a few toys.

Even on telly people living in mud huts manage to have a tidy home even though they don't have many things

Like I said many simply choose whats more important for example I take issue with someone claiming they have no food when they smoke i suggest they are not Hungery enough

Children do live like this sadly but due to their parents stupidity why should you share a dirty matress when you are given a budgeting loan £1000 loan why would a child have no clothing when t shirts in prim ark are £1 why would a child only have their cloths washed once a week tesco value soap costs 15p and a wilko scrubbing brush costs £1

THAT'S NOT POVERTY IT'S NEGLECT we have social services for this their is a big difference between neglect a poverty the people who live in the slums in mumbi wash their kids school uniform every day they stoop with a scrubbing brush over a bowl they boil the shirts

Please do not equate poverty with neglect you do real poor people a disservice

tazmosis · 28/03/2011 21:20

For god's sake Maypole your posts are offensive enough without all the irritating spelling mistakes. You mean there and in your earlier post you meant break.

NorthernGobshite · 28/03/2011 21:39

maypole I am a social worker, I know the difference. You just sound like a sad Daily Mail reading Tory who has no clue what it is like for people who live in poverty.

Yes, 3rd world countries have it worse, but we're not a 3rd world country and therefore should NOT have people living in poverty. The gap between the rich and the poor is ever growing.

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 21:44

a budgetting loan of £1000 - really? You think they just hand those things over willy nilly?

We don't have a Primark here either..............

Don't lecture me about poverty in 3rd world countries. I KNOW, I've BEEN THERE, I've lived there, I have lived for 8 months in much worse poverty than I have ever been in here in the UK (and for those of you who saw my posts in 2005 on here when I had £15 to feed the 4 of us for a week and buy nappies, and that whole period of time you'll know that's saying something), 4 months of that our exH's paltry teachers salary didn't even cver the rent of our ranshacked "cottage" (think glorfied shed), with it's sieve like roof (it leaked in every single room - not just a few drips, but it literally poured thrugh the ceilings every time it rained..........which ermm as it was rainy season was every day). We lived in a diet of Wedding cake for breakfast, bread for lunch and mince - just mince, no rice, or sauce, just plain fried mince (as it was bloody cheap) for 4 months. Yes that iwas what we ate every single day. And I was pregnant at the time as well.

Yes we were "wealthy" compared to the absolute poverty that others lived in, but I can assure you that it was no life and it was hunger. Making the top tier of a cake last for 4 monhs meant very very small pieces for breakfast.

In 2006 and went back there to visit family and friends. Many of them live in the townships, visiting cousins who lived in the back half of a practically derelict home, with rubbish and sewage piled up at the end of their street (just 20ft away). Visiting the elderly aunt in the "village" (mud huts) - except (believe it or not) these days most people live in brick built houses. Very very basic, but the huts are often not used, just perhaps by one or two "poorer" family members who are given the job of looking after the homestead while everyone else is off living in the townships outside the urban settings. \link{,r:2,s:0\you see there}. Those huts are often just used for cooking, most have a simple brick building for actual "living" in these days.

And I think your "mud huts" comment actually shows how much total trip you are talking.

Only really the remote "uncontacted" tribes in the world (such as those in the Amazonian rainforest) still live purely in mud huts. However, many could argue because of their rich, healthy diet, and lives as hunter gatherers that they are not actually living in absolute poverty. They choose this way of life and are happy with it. Disease are much rarer, as they've not been infected, and so they generally enjoy a decent level of health, education one could argue is lacking, but then what need do they have to know what our children need to know?

BrilliantDisguise · 28/03/2011 21:53

Jogon (fantastic name btw!) - there are people living like this for lots of reasons-
addiction/substance abuse
poor educational experience
Poor MH
Learning difficulties/disabilities
bad decisions
children with disabilities
poor financial management capabilities
pure bad luck (sometimes!)

If you are poor, then keeping your head above water can be a full time business.

If I need a new car, roof, uniform for the children, whatever... I have options.
Dependent on cost, I can take the money from my current account, my savings, take out a reasonable interest loan, extend my mortgage, tap-up my MIL- all these options are available to me as I have a well-paid, regular job that provides me with a good salary, and a nice sound financial history [boring]

People at the other end of the economic scale have no options when it comes to emergencies- no banks will lend to them, hell some don't even have bank accounts, let alone savings, mortgages etc. Loans are only available to them at extortionate rates (think 6000% not 6%) and their families are unlikely to be in circumstances where they can help either.

Money makes money, and unfortunately poverty begets poverty- there isn't a way out for many people at the bottom of the heap. Their children are disadvantaged in education, meaning they too are trapped in a cycle of poverty.

BrilliantDisguise · 28/03/2011 21:54

'budgeting loan of £1000' Shock

You're lucky to get a Section 17 payment of £20 in my LA!

BaroqueAroundTheClock · 28/03/2011 22:05

I'll admit I did get a social fund loan of £800, but that was to help with the cost of moving. I HAD to move, the house I was living in was on the route to repossession - I had (very helpfully for the council) found a private let that was willing to have me. I needed to pay the first months rent and moving costs. The actual move with everything included cost me over £1000, but £800 was all they would give me.

And here's the key thing it's a LOAN* - ie it has to be paid back - it's not just free money to spend on what you want! And they take it back directly from your benefits, so for me it meant that they took £11 off my £64.50 a week IS before I was given it. They won't necessarily give you as much as you want (or need), and they will decide (based on other debts you're paying off etc) how much you can afford to borrow. Plus - there's only so much in the pot for each financial year, so if you're applying late on, well there may simply be no money left to loan you no matter how "deserving" you are (I finally paid it off at the start of this month Grin Grin)

BD - what's a section 17 payment?? Is that a crisis loan? (which also of course needs to be paid back because, err, it's a loan).

usualsuspect · 28/03/2011 22:12

Just get down the stream and wash your clothes you load of stinking scrounging fuckers Wink

Vivianna · 28/03/2011 22:34

I'm living on well under the £7000 limit and just don't know what Im going to do! What anybody has failed to realise, is, that the poorer you are the more expensive the world around you is! I pay more for my gas and electric because I have metres installed for both, they were already installed in my property and I cannot seem to get them removed, for me travel is also very hard as the bus is so expensive I walk everywhere, and as for Christmas and Birthdays.....its a nightmare, I dread not being able to make my ds happy. I've applied for over a hundred jobs and despite having a BA no luck, oh well, we struggle on xxX

rasputin · 28/03/2011 22:39

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TheSecondComing · 28/03/2011 22:46

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silverfrog · 28/03/2011 22:49

rasputin - what part of my earlier pos woud you class as me not living in severe poverty?

the shack-like building we livd in? with mould and rain pouring in? (having lived in Africa, my gardener at that time had better accommodation than I was brought up in)

what about the no food?

or no clothes of my own (other than school uniform)?

how about no electricity? and handwashing all our clothes in cold water?

you're right, though. there was no open sewer. we weren't poor after all Hmm(although there was a large and structurally dangerous hole in the floor just inside out front door (down to a cellar, we believed. by the time we were able to leave this "house" the hole was too big to step/jump across and we had had to put planks down to walk across)

UnlikelyAmazonian · 28/03/2011 22:50

So where did 'Niceguy2' eff off to after starting this?

Is he slaying poverty in Nottinghill?


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TheJollyPirate · 28/03/2011 22:53

If ypou look at poverty globally then we barely scratch the surface in the UK. However, any health planner will tell you that poverty is relative and those who are deemed to be in poverty within the UK have earlier deaths from all illnesses than those higher up the social echelons.

As a health visitor in a deprived area I can tell you categorically that poverty exists and it's not just financial. The OP has looked at this from a purely financial view but if money was the answer then all would be well everywhere with cash thrown at it. Money is not the answer but targeted services, support for parents, decent housing (ie - not with mold growing up the walls as I see all too often) and enough social housing for those who need it.

TheJollyPirate · 28/03/2011 22:58

... and the lack of heating is a good one too. I have been into homes which are freezing because the family cannot afford to put on the expensive storage heating which is all some properties have. I was in that situation myself last year and I have more than just benefits coming in. The sad fact is that some families just stay cold.

rasputin · 28/03/2011 23:00

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