April 3, 2024

If you want to go far, go together 

by Hannah Paylor, Carnegie UK

In the UK in 2024, around 8.1 million people are living in poverty. That’s roughly the same amount of people as the population of London. The UK is a wealthy nation, yet up and down the country, so many people are struggling to afford the essentials like putting food on the table and heating their homes.   

The cost of poverty goes beyond the hardship experienced by people living in low-income households. It impacts all areas of our collective lives, ‘costing’ the economy through reduced employment later in life, and public services as people tackle the symptoms and consequences of poverty on personal wellbeing, like poor physical and mental health.  

It’s these statistics of hardship that we often hear in the news. They have a powerful effect. But in presenting this evidence: in graphs, charts, and numbers, do we risk dehumanising the people our work strives to support? 

This is one of many questions we at Carnegie UK have reflected on in the first year of a three-year partnership with the Poverty Truth Network. In 2023, as we launched our new Life in the UK index – a survey of nearly 7,000 people – we set out to work in solidarity with people with experience of living in poverty. Too often these experiences go unheard in the public debate or are missed out in the numbers because of how the evidence is collected. We wanted to make sure that, when we seek to measure the collective wellbeing of people in the UK, the context of people’s lives form part of the story we tell about what it’s like to live, work, and grow up here.  

Building relationships and taking the time needed to forge and build trust has been a central part of this work over the last year. It is through spending time to get to know each other by sharing a meal or watching a film together with no agenda but to be in each other’s company that I have – personally – learned more about the current context of poverty in the UK, than I have in any policy report I’ve read. 

The next couple of years of this work will focus on the changes we want to collectively see. Carnegie UK defines collective wellbeing as ‘everyone having what they need to live well now, and in the future.” Together, we will consider what needs to happen to make this a reality.