Charity and Destitution: An Economic, Social and Cultural Rights-Based Perspective

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SLSA Annual Conference 2022 (York, U.K.)

There has been a resurgence of destitution in the UK and, consequently, destitution has been the focus of renewed engagement by civil society and academia. The exact nature of destitution is disputed. Whilst it is accepted that there are certain needs – and associated goods – which are required to avoid destitution, the extent to which the means of meeting these needs may render an individual destitute is less clear. More specifically, whether an individual who can meet these needs via charitable assistance is destitute is disputed. This issue must be resolved to accurately measure destitution.

Under the statutory definition, it is reasonable to assess whether charitable assistance could prevent destitution. Thus, the statutory understanding of destitution focuses on the ends – meeting the needs – rather than the means through which such needs are met. So conceived, the question of whether an individual is destitute rests solely on whether an individual can meet these needs. This is a narrow understanding of destitution. In contrast to this, a reliance on charity and alms is central to the traditional understanding of destitution. Similarly, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation considers those who are only able to meet these needs via charitable assistance as destitute and justifies this – rather weakly – based upon public opinion.

This paper evaluates the relationship between charity and destitution from the perspective of economic, social and cultural rights. In doing so, this paper provides a far stronger justification – than public opinion – for considering a reliance on charitable assistance as intrinsic to the destitution experience.
PeriodApr 2022
Event typeConference
LocationYork, United KingdomShow on map