Breadline Britain

Poverty is not restricted to a tiny minority in modern Britain Credit: ITV / Tonight

A special edition of Tonight reports exclusively on the shock findings of the biggest and most in-depth study into poverty levels in Britain.

The Living Standards Survey asks 1,500 people living in Britain today what they deem to be necessities for everyday life.

The survey finds that having a warm, damp free home and enough food to feed your family are basic necessities that almost everyone says no-one should go without and many now consider owning a computer with internet access and a mobile phone an essential part of modern life.

The complete list of items the population considers to be necessities for adults is:

  • Heating to keep home adequately warm

  • Damp-free home

  • Two meals a day

  • Visit friends or family in hospital or other institutions

  • Replace or repair broken electrical goods

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables every day

  • Washing machine at home

  • All recommended dental treatment

  • Celebrations on special occasions

  • Warm waterproof coat

  • Attend weddings, funerals and other such occasions

  • Telephone

  • Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent every other day

  • Curtains or window blinds

  • Enough money to keep your home in a decent state of decoration

  • Household contents insurance

  • Hobby or leisure activity

  • Appropriate clothes for job interviews

  • Table and chairs at which the family can eat

  • Taking part in sport or exercise activities or classes

  • To be able to pay unexpected costs of £500

  • Two pairs of all weather shoes

  • Regular savings (of at least £20 per month) for rainy days

  • Television

  • Regular payments to an occupational or private pension

And the complete list of necessities for children is:

  • Warm winter coat

  • Fresh fruit or veg at least once a day

  • New properly fitting shoes

  • Three meals a day

  • Garden or outdoor space to play in safely

  • Books at home suitable for their ages

  • Child celebration or special occasions

  • Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent at least once a day

  • Suitable place at home to study or do homework

  • Child hobby or leisure activity

  • Toddler group or nursery or play-group at least once a week for pre-school age children

  • Indoor games suitable for their age

  • Enough bedrooms for every child aged 10+ of a different sex to have their own room

  • Children's clubs or activities such as drama or football training

  • Computer and internet for homework

  • Some new, not second-hand clothes

  • Day trips with family once a month

  • Outdoor leisure equipment, such as roller skates, skateboard, football etc

  • At least 4 pairs of trousers, leggings, jeans or jogging bottoms

  • Going on a school trip at least once a term

  • Money to save

  • Pocket money

  • Holiday away from home at least 1 week per year

  • Construction toys (eg, lego, duplo etc)

After collating the list of these necessities the research team then looked at the living standards of 12,000 people across the UK and measured how many necessities they had.

Anyone who misses out on three or more necessities because they couldn’t afford them is deemed to be living in poverty.

The study says there more people are living in poverty today than thirty years ago. The main groups of people affected are the unemployed, the sick and disabled, the elderly, single parents and also the ‘working poor’ families in low paid jobs struggling to provide for their families.

Tonight tells the story of people across Britain whose lives are affected because they are living on the breadline.


The report says 4 million children are living in deprivation.

Renee Johnson lives in one of London’s most deprived areas. She shares a flat, which she rents from the council, with her elderly mother Edith and four young children, Charice, Zanisha, Givan and Tyrone. The flat is damp which has made two of the rooms un-useable leaving the boys to share a bedroom with their grandmother and Renee sleeping on the sofa with her two daughters sharing a mattress on the floor.

As a single working parent on a low income she is unable to afford to replace the bedroom furniture which has been destroyed by the damp.

Anne Marie Carrie is CEO of children’s charity Barnardo’s, which campaigns to reduce the impact of poverty on the UK’s most disadvantaged families. She was shocked, but not surprised, by the reports findings.


The report says 1.8 million unemployed people are living in poverty.

Marc Conway Credit: ITV / Tonight

Redcar in the North East, once home to a thriving a steal industry is now listed as one of the UK’s unemployment blackspots. For every person on jobseekers allowance there is only one job vacancy. Marc Conway is 21 and has never had a permanent job. He lives on £53 per week jobseekers allowance, which, after he has paid for food and bills leaves him with nothing at the end of the week.

The Living Standards survey says 30 million people are financially insecure. Almost half the population cannot afford to save £5 a week meaning they are unable to make regular pension contributions or pay an unexpected bill of £500.

The Cox family, also living in Redcar after relocating from London six years ago, are one of the millions of families living on a precarious financial cliff edge. Their house is in negative equity and they have no pension or savings.

The Poverty study finds that 4 million adults aren’t properly fed and 28% are going without food so their children can eat.


The survey says 2.1 million people who are in work and supporting a family are living in poverty.

These are families like Dave Rooke and Kristie Locke, who both work part time jobs in order to avoid childcare costs for their baby boy. Once they have paid all their regular bills they are left with only £66 at the end of the month, leaving very little money for things like social activities, birthdays or holidays.

Dave Rooke with baby son Credit: ITV / Tonight

The survey finds 11 million people like Dave and Kristie across the UK who feel socially excluded because they are living in poverty.

In his recent budget speech the chancellor pledged to support those who work and try to be independent of the state yet Dave and Kristie say they would be better off on benefits

The authors of the report into living standards say austerity measures and benefit changes - coming into affect over the next few months - will make things worse for those already living in breadline Britain.

The Department of Work and Pensions has criticised the methodology of the Living Standards survey.

The Government says it’s committed to eradicating child poverty – and says the latest figures show 600,000 people have moved OUT of relative poverty, that it’s using a multi dimensional approach to tackle root causes of poverty and adds that by next year another two million low earners will have been taken out of paying tax altogether.

The Living Standards Survey was conducted by the PSE UK research team made up of members from 6 universities across Britain. The Universities involved are:

University of Bristol,

Heriot-Watt University,

The Open University,

Queen's University Belfast,

University of Glasgow

University of York

The PSE UK research project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. For more information and the full report visit:

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Tonight: Breadline Britain is on ITV at 7.30pm this evening