Poverty In North Devon
A recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) ranked North Devon 2nd in a list of 5 levels of prevalence of destitution (1 being highest, 5 being the lowest), estimating that 2.1 – 2.7%, or roughly 480 households, had experienced a period of destitution – unable to afford to eat, stay warm and dry, or keep clean – in North Devon this past year.
Destitution has a cyclical nature with those experiencing this extreme hardship moving from extreme poverty to destitution and back again. Most often this is due to unexpected expense or disruptions to income arising – such as an illness, loss or cut back in hours to a zero hours contract, change to benefits or a move to colder weather which increased heating costs. Most often those experiencing destitution had their situation resolved through a resolution of benefit issues, or less often, through finding cheaper housing, paying off debts, gaining employment, receiving support for their complex needs or even the onset of warmer weather.
In an effort to decrease the prevalence and effects of destitution and extreme poverty in North Devon, we run a number of different projects which provide participants with a plan and a possible route out of their situation and back to participate in the wider community.
Whilst many participants of the report related feelings of degradation, and humiliation at the need to seek help with their material needs like food, clothing, and toiletries from charitable organisations, friends or family, this is one area that is not echoed in the responses given by our service users; comments such as ‘Freedom provided sanity.’ or ‘Freedom helped me to feel like a human again and not just some ‘thing’.’ are common amongst the feedback sheets provided.
Our core services address the immediate needs of those who find themselves in dire straits – a free clothes store, free hot lunches and shower facilities enable visitors to be clothed, fed and clean – restoring people’s humanity.
Along-side this, our Digital Inclusion classes enable students to learn how to run useful job searches and write effective job applications and CV’s whilst also mastering basic computer skills such as email account creation and management and using house swapping sites which enable those in social housing to find more suitable, affordable accommodation. Our two social enterprises give volunteers an opportunity to learn new skills which enhance work preparedness and job opportunities – one of the preferred routes out of destitution noted in JRF’s report.