This report, jointly commissioned by The Legal Education Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is one of a number of parallel reports published alongside Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research “Destitution in the UK”. Fitzpatrick et al’s (2018) research estimates that: “approximately 1,550,000 people, 365,000 of them children, were destitute in UK at some point over the course of 2017” (Fitzpatrick et al. 2018:2). This report explores the role of the law and access to legal services (or lack thereof) in creating pathways into, and out of, destitution.

The key recommendations are as follows:

  1. A statutory duty on destitution should be created: Primary legislation should establish a clear definition of destitution and a duty on public bodies to protect all persons lawfully present in the UK from destitution.
  2. Legal services should be co-located with other crisis and support services: Co-locating services would reduce referral fatigue and improve the ability of advisors to intervene earlier. The resourcing of legal services is vital in order to render any statutory duty to prevent destitution meaningful.
  3. Government should be placed under a positive duty to facilitate access to social security: The government should be placed under a positive duty to ensure that individuals are receiving the social security benefits they are entitled to. This would require government to address systemic issues in the administration of benefits.


Executive Summary: Destitution and Paths to Justice Full Report: Destitution and Paths to Justice

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