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There Are No Destitute People In The United Kingdom

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We have a report out that insists that hundreds of thousands have been made destitute by the coronavirus. This is not actually true for several reasons. One being that it’s not the virus but the reaction to it that has caused the poverty. Even then it could be true of certain places in the world – being thrown out of a Bangladeshi clothing factory could lead to destitution – but not in the UK.

The real reason though is that this is a report from the usual fools who don’t actually understand what poverty is.

The number of British households plunged into destitution more than doubled last year, according to alarming new research on the devastating fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amid growing concerns over the unequal impact the crisis has had on the poor and low-paid, it has emerged that there were 220,000 more households living in destitution by the end of last year, potentially more than half a million people.

No, this isn’t true. It just ain’t so in the UK. The reason is this:

Destitution is defined as a two-adult household living on less than £100 a week and a single-adult household on less than £70 a week after housing costs.

That’s not destitution. Sure, it’s not, for this country, all that high a standard of living but it ain’t destitution. The reason being this:

£100 a week for two adults puts you above median global income. Which ain’t destitution. That’s actually, by that global standard, solidly middle class.

Yes, that adjusts for price differences across geography. And it also vastly underestimates that UK income too. Because the UK income is measured after housing costs – that global one is before them.

Talking about poverty, low income, even destitution, is all very well. We might even think it’s important to discuss them and hope for their abolition. But if we are going to discuss these matters we need to grasp what they all actually mean.

There is no one at all in the United Kingdom in either absolute poverty or destitution. We’ve solved those through having an industrial revolution, economic growth and the merest glimmerings of a welfare state. Because both absolute poverty and destitution mean the $1.90 (about, among friends, £1.50) a day per person measured before housing costs. And that’s consumption as well, not income. This simply does not exist here. Homeless folks consume more than that value each day.

Only if we all understand this can we even start to have a useful conversation about whatever problems do remain.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. 70 quid *after* housing costs? Good god, I’m destitute! And I work for the NHS!

    Wait a mo, I miscounted, I added in transport. Ignoring having to actually pay to get to work, I have about 100 quid or so left each week. While squeezed, I certainly don’t feel destitute. Destitute is living under a bridge, not in a house with hot running water.

  2. Tim, there *are* some destitute people in the UK. Nearly all of those are destitute due to the incompetence and/or callousness of the DWP, but they do exist including a significant minority of genuine refugees (the fakes, economic migrants pretending to be refugees disappear into the black economy, genuine ones obeying the rules aren’t allowed to earn any money while waiting for months and months for the Home office to process their applications).

  3. John77–that’s the Democrats approach in the US. Constantly importing destitute people into the country, through a system of unguided, unthinking, and out-of-control open borders to the South, to maintain the poverty industry. The victims, of course, are those at the margins of the economy in the first place.

  4. @ Barks
    The Democrat imports are what I label as economic migrants: in the “old country” we have a tradition of importing (and benefiting from) refugees fleeing in fear of their life (and/or gang rape in a minority of cases) – Huguenots, Flemish weavers, 1900s Russian Jews, a very few Armenians, 1930s German Jews who didn’t have enough to qualify as US immigrants, Ugandan Asians, Ibos during the Nigerian civil war, and recently Iraqi Christians and Congolese.
    Without wishing to offend, I have to say that I seriously doubt whether Americans comprehend the meaning of the word “destitute”: in the 1990s I spent some (the largest minority) of my working time in Eastern Europe and observed that an Albanian bank manager got paid less (even in Purchasing Power Parity terms) than a single mother on benefits in New York City.
    My sister has, for the last decade, being helping a charity that provides grants of *up to* £36 ($43) for refugees expected to live on £37.75 ($46) per week. Some of the grants are because the DWP has sent the $46 to the wrong address … No-one on $46 a week has any savings to tide them through until the DWP sorts out its errors.

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expunct

in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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