top of page

Poverty fact file 

While poverty is driven by economic factors, its impacts on an individual's life can be devastating and far reaching. The saying goes that money can't buy you happiness- but what it can do is make your life much, much easier. Living in poverty has the most obvious impact of reducing your ability to buy the material goods needed for a reasonable standard of life such as food, shelter and clothing, but it is in understanding the implications of this that lets us understand why this is such a pressing issue. 
Hiking in the Highlands

What is poverty?

Poverty is when your resources are well below your minimum needs. There is no one single way of measuring poverty- it is a hugely complex issue with a range of different measures that tell us different things. Some of the most commonly used measures include: 

Minimum income standard- enough income to afford an acceptable, decent standard of living and the ability to participate in society. 

Relative poverty- living in households with income below 60% of the median in that year. 

Absolute poverty- living in households with income below 60% of (inflation-adjusted) median income in some base year, usually 2010/11. 

Destitution- where you can’t afford basics such as food, shelter, heating and clothing.  

Who is at an increased risk of experiencing poverty?

Young Mom

Single parent households

Data from the DWP's 2020/21 Family Resources Survey showed that 19% of all single parent households had low food security.  


Benefit recipients 

90% of low-income households on UC are currently going without essentials.

66% of the public think the basic rate of UC is too low.

Disabled Athletes in Sports Hall

Long term health conditions/disability

At Citizens Advice Shropshire, 80% of those clients seen at food banks had a long term health condition or disability

Women Holding Hands


Food insecurity is highest in households where the head of the household is Black British, Arab, Pakistani and lowest where the head of the household was White or Indian.


Poverty’s impact on health and wellbeing 


The British Medical Association has reported that poverty can affect the health of people at all ages, both physical and mental health. In infancy, it is associated with a low birth weight, shorter life expectancy and a higher risk of death in the first year of life. Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and diet-related problems. Twice as many people are obese in the most deprived areas of the UK than in the least deprived areas. Most individual long-term conditions are more than twice as common in adults from lower socio-economic groups.  

A negative cycle can exist between poverty and health. Many people living in poverty cannot afford the cost of their care, such as prescription charges, resulting in their conditions worsening over time. This negative cycle can transfer across generations, starting from pre-birth, with impact upon parenting, educational attainment, and employment. 

Income can influence the ability of individuals and households to obtain a healthy diet; with those on low incomes at risk of suffering from food poverty. Nutrient-dense foods such as lean meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are more expensive than low-nutrient foods, so when budgets are tight people are likely to opt for more unhealth alternatives and cut back on the amount they eat all together.


Undernutrition caused by food poverty can have a range of adverse health effects, including on the muscular system, the immune system and psycho-social function. Food poverty has also been associated with increased falls and fractures in older people, low birth weight, increased childhood mortality and increased dental issues in children. 


Educational Attainment

The relationship between family socio-economic position and educational attainment remains particularly strong. Research on the drivers behind this gap in educational attainment show a complex picture. Disadvantaged children start school behind their peers, and the gap in performance widens as they progress through the education system. Lacking sufficient money has a direct impact on the resources families can access to support child development and learning. These include basic items like nutritious food, adequate housing and home access to the internet (this has been linked to a 10-point increase in GCSE attainment).


Children eligible for the Pupil Premium start school at a level of development 4.3 months behind their more advantaged peers; five-year-olds in the lowest income tertial were found to be 2.9 points higher on a measure of behaviour problems and lagged 13.5 months behind their high-income peers in vocabulary scores. This is particularly significant given as language is the foundation of learning and social interactions. 

Upon starting school disadvantaged children and young people are disproportionately more likely to lack the necessary precursors – a good level of health and wellbeing, a nutritious diet, a stimulating home environment - to learn and perform well in a formal education setting. Studies show that the allocation of pupils to ‘ability’ groups is often done on an inconsistent and subjective basis: disadvantaged pupils are more likely to be allocated to lower attainment groups. Before they leave school, disadvantaged pupils are currently less likely than their better-off peers to receive careers guidance. This may be particularly detrimental, as disadvantaged young people may lack social networks with the knowledge and contacts to replace guidance offered in school. 

Green Farm

Rural Poverty

Rural poverty is an issue of particular relevance to Shropshire, rural poverty is a very real, albeit sometimes hidden issue.  

In rural areas residents often do not have easy access services, almost no one in urban areas lives more than 4km (2.5 miles) from a GP but one in five households in rural areas do. It is the same for supermarkets: 44% of country dwellers have to travel more than 4km to get to one, while 59% are not within 4km of a bank. 

Residents of rural areas face additional barriers to entering the workforce and pay a premium for their fuel (many houses run off oil fed central heating systems). Many rural areas have limited or poor-quality internet access and very little public transport infrastructure. Access to the larger, more competitively priced food retailers is often difficult, leaving residents reliant on much more expensive local convenience stores. All of this is then compounded by a low wage economy, where much of the work is low paid, insecure or seasonal.  

The Indices of Multiple Deprivation are widely used data sets used to classify relative deprivation of small areas in the UK but typically poorly represent deprivation in rural areas and can lead to rural areas being overlooked when it comes to the allocation of funding and planning for rural health and social services.  

Centring the voices of those who have experienced poverty  

It is vitally important when we are talking about poverty that the voices of those experiencing it are not forgotten or silenced.  

Whether managing on a tight budget, making a difficult decision on whether to purchase food or fuel, experts by experience have important insights of what works and doesn’t in everyday life. This gives experts by experience unique expertise, assets and perspectives that need to be heard, listened to and amplified. Yet too often these voices are missing from the discourse around poverty, resulting in projects, campaigns and interventions that don’t meet the needs of the people they are intended to help. 

This exclusion can occur because experts simply aren’t being invited to the conversation. It can also be due to barriers to participation, such as a lack of compensation for expert's time and input. 

Below are links to powerful examples of the work being done to amplify the voices of those with lived experience of poverty:

Lived experience of food insecurity in South West Shropshire

Short film made by and featuring youth campaigners in Blackburn with Darwen Food Partnership 

Darwin gets Hangry project 

Hungry Nation: Real stories of food poverty in Coventry told on a stage   

Pushed to the Edge: Poverty, Food Banks and Mental Health   

bottom of page