This policy forces people into dangerous and exploitative situations, including domestic servitude, prostitution, and abusive relationships, just to find shelter for the night. We know too the detrimental impact that destitution has on people’s mental and physical health and the ways in which it impedes their ability to make decisions about the future.
“When people don’t have their basic needs met their thoughts and behaviour become chaotic,” says Lindsay Reid, a caseworker at Scottish Refugee Council. “This leads to feelings of shame and worthlessness which multiply and become entrenched over time. One man I know survived torture in Pakistan but through his experience of destitution in the UK has developed severe psychological problems and has lost the ability to cope.”
When people in need have no recourse to public funds it is left to the voluntary sector to plug the gaps. But this revolving door of emergency response cannot stop the cycle of suffering and degradation.