Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey 2012: first UK and Scottish results

The University of Glasgow is a partner in the largest survey ever undertaken of poverty and social exclusion in the UK. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the project involves teams from the Universities of Bristol, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Queens Belfast and York, as well as the Open University. First results for the UK and for Scotland were published on 28 March, and were featured in an ITV documentary broadcast that evening, "Tonight: Breadline Britain".

The survey uses a consensual or democratic approach to defining poverty. Unlike most Government statistics on poverty which use a measure of income, this approach measures living standards directly. The results from 2012 can be compared with those from similar research in 1983, 1990 and 1999.

The approach uses two surveys. The first survey measures public opinion on which items people think that everyone should have and which activities they think everyone should be able to afford to do - the 'necessities'. Separate lists cover adults and children. For adults, for example, necessities include a damp-free home and two meals a day. For children, necessities include three meals a day and a holiday away from home for one week a year. One effect of the recession has been to make people slightly less generous in their views about the social minimum. Some items which had been regarded as necessities in the 1999 survey were no longer regarded as such in 2012.

The second survey examines living standards, and identifies how many people are unable to afford each item or activity due to lack of money. In 2012, for example, the survey showed that 10% of people in the UK had a damp home while 3% of adults could not afford two meals a day.

Initial analysis suggests that levels of deprivation are slightly lower in Scotland than in the rest of the UK. One factor here appears to be the high cost of housing in England, particularly in the South East. Results also suggest that levels of deprivation have increased over the last 30 years. In 1983, using the standard set by the public at that time, 14% of households could not afford 3 or more 'necessities'. In 2012, using the standard set now, the figure was 33%.

For more details, visit the project website: www.poverty.ac.uk

First published: 4 April 2013

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