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  • 2021GrahamPhd

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Destitution as a denial of economic, social and cultural rights: Addressing destitution in the UK through a human rights framework

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2021
Number of pages311
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • ESRC - North West Social Science Doctoral Training Partnership
Award date18/01/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis addresses destitution in the United Kingdom from a human rights-based perspective. In order to achieve this, part one of my thesis creates a human rights-based definition of destitution. In part two, this definition is applied to the context of the United Kingdom.

Destitution has not yet been explicitly defined in the language of human rights and, in fact, remains an unsettled concept beyond the sphere of human rights. The originality of this work therefore rests on the fact that it is the first work to explicitly define destitution using a human rights framework.

The contribution of this thesis is two-fold. Firstly, through framing the destitution experience in terms of tangible rights the aim is to further effective policy and law to tackle, and mobilise against, destitution. Secondly, the prevention and alleviation of destitution whilst being of value in itself, can also be a stimulus for the implementation of fundamental social and economic rights at the domestic level.

This thesis argues that a rights-based definition of destitution has two elements. The component rights and the destitution threshold. This author’s human rights-based definition of destitution is: ‘If any one, or more, of an individual’s component rights are not realised to the destitution threshold then an individual is destitute.’ From this starting point the thesis begins and works towards, in part one, defining the component rights and the destitution threshold. Having defined these concepts and enunciated my human rights-based definition of destitution in part one, my definition is applied to the context of the United Kingdom in part two. Part two will examine the context of – and I argue cause of increasing - destitution in the UK: austerity. Following this I determine what it means to be destitute under my definition in the UK before offering human rights-based solutions and recommendations to this ever-growing problem.