PSE: UK 2012 is the most comprehensive survey of poverty and social exclusion ever undertaken in the UK. The research finds that about a third of households in the UK today face significant difficulties, specifically:
The Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE) research measures the numbers of people who fall below what the population as a whole think should be a minimum standard of living.
This is the only measure looking at both: what the majority think are necessities for life in the UK today, and actual living standards (rather than just income).
This first PSE Facts and Findings looks at the numbers lacking necessities in 2012. PSE Facts and Findings 2: Going backwards, looks at what has changed over 30 years.
The top two necessities for all households are heating and a damp-free home. Nearly everyone agrees on this. Yet in the UK today:
In addition: a fifth of adults don’t have enough money to keep their home in a decent state of decoration.
Many children are growing up in overcrowded conditions with no place to play outdoors:
There is very widespread agreement on what we need to eat properly.
I do without for the children so they have proper meals. I can live on one meal a day.
For children, over 90% agree it means: three meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables; and meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent at least once a day.
For adults, over 75% agree this includes: two meals a day; fresh fruit and vegetables every day; and meat, fish or a vegetarian equivalent every other day.
Yet, significant numbers lack at least one of these items:
In nearly all of the households where there are children going without one or more of the food items, adults in the household are cutting back on their own food: in 93% of these households at least one adult ‘skimps’ either often or sometimes on their own food.
97% of people agree that children need a warm winter coat, with new, properly fitting shoes close behind (93%). Most also agree that children need some new (not secondhand) clothes and at least four pairs of trousers, leggings, jeans or jogging bottoms. Yet at least 1 million children go without one or more basic clothing necessities.
There are three essential clothing items for adults: a warm, waterproof coat, two pairs of all-weather shoes and appropriate clothes for job interviews, yet:
I’ve still got my prom suit upstairs from school and it still fits me, that’s the only way I’ve got job interview clothes.
Views of what we need don’t just cover basic essentials like food. Necessities also include maintaining the home, education and leisure activities, and taking part in social activities.
For adults, household goods seen as necessities include a washing machine, phone, curtains or window blinds, table and chairs. Fewer people lack these one-off purchases than other necessities. Some who are currently struggling will have been able to afford these items in the past.
Even so, 7% of households (1.9 million) cannot afford at least one of these four items. More problematic are things that require regular or significant spending: 26% of adults (11.7 million) cannot afford to replace or repair broken electrical goods.Looking at all these household items, 14 million people can't afford them.
Many children are missing out on items the public believe are necessities for education and development. Of school-age children:
Other items considered essential for children's development include books, indoor games and construction toys. Looking at all six child development items: around 1.6 million school-age children (18%) miss out on important development items and activities.
The necessities most likely to be out of reach are those requiring either ready cash or regular amounts of money for longer term financial planning:
In addition: 12% of households (3 million adults) cannot afford household insurance.
Overall, levels of insecurity are extremely high: over 30 million people, nearly half the population, suffer from financial insecurity.
In the 2012 survey the social activities seen to be necessities by the majority are a hobby, celebrations on special occasions, attending wedding and funerals and similar occasions, being able to make hospital or other such visits, and being able to take part in sport and exercise. Almost 12 million people are too poor to engage in these common social activities considered necessary by the majority of the population.
Families are also cutting out on key family activities (see Table 1.1). As with adults, meeting these necessities requires money to spare after the weekly bills have been met. Children are also most likely to go without items related to financial independence, now or in the future.
|Necessities||% of children||numbers of children|
|No money to save||32% (aged 5 or over)||2.8 million (aged 5 or over)|
|No pocket money||16% (aged 5 or over)||1.4 million (aged 5 or over)|
|No holiday away from home for a week a year||26%||3.3million|
|No family day trips||20%||2.6 million|
The overall multiple deprivation count identifies how many households cannot afford these necessities to a point that affects their whole way of life. Looking at those who cannot afford these necessities:
Looking directly at those who can't afford necessities provides a picture of what people miss out on and the impact this has on their lives. Because it is based on the ‘consensual’ approach, what we agree people should have, it also tells us who falls below what is acceptable in our society. Millions of adults and children in the UK today face significant difficulties with living standards that are unacceptable low.
I feel bad as a parent you know, that I should be providing for my children and at times I can’t because I just don’t have the money to.
The first PSE UK tables of data are available in the 'Explore the data' section.
Detailed PSE UK papers on the lack of necessities will also be published soon. These papers will also explore if money is the only reason for going without. The PSE survey also finds out about people who lack items and activities because they 'don’t want’ them and those who want to take part but can't for other reasons than lack of money. There will be further analyses of the barriers to participation later in the year.
The PSE:UK 2012 research draws on two surveys both carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in Britain and by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in Northern Ireland.
Read more about the research approach here.
See also the PSE: UK team's first report 'The impoverishment of the UK'.