Poverty has many faces.  I-SPHERE has a strong presence in mainstream poverty research, exemplified by involvement in the ESRC Poverty and Social Exclusion Survey (Bramley & Bailey 2018), work ‘Poverty and Housing through the Lifecourse’ (Stephens et al 2016), and multiple inputs into the Joseph Rowntree ‘Solve UK Poverty’ strategy, including work on ‘Counting the Cost of Poverty’. We have developed a particular specialism in measuring and understanding the more extreme end of poverty, notably through pathbreaking studies of Destitution in the UK (also for JRF) which estimated that 1.5 million people experience this each year, and an ongoing research programme on The State of Hunger (Trussell Trust), which is monitoring and profiling food poverty across the UK. Fuel poverty has also been a focus, with a significant change in the Scottish approach to defining this advanced based on our analysis of adverse outcomes. We are seeking to bring measurement of severe poverty, as it affects many people (e.g. homeless, sofa surfers) who are not covered by conventional household surveys, into the mainstream of UK statistics. In the coming period, we anticipate more focus on poverty as it affects children and young people and the interface with education.

The table provides a summary of key recent research projects in this field.  For publications see our Publications section.

TitleAboutDatesFunderLead Researcher
The State of Hunger The landscape of food aid in the UK has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. The State of Hunger will be an authoritative, sector-leading UK-wide annual benchmark study to answer the question of what is driving hunger in the UK and who it affects. The study will provide Trussell Trust with the evidence base it needs to create policy recommendations to end hunger in the UK. Crucially, it will provide much-needed detailed evidence on specifically which policies and factors are primary drivers of hunger. Furthermore, it will provide evidence from different areas of the UK regarding ‘what works’ in alleviating hunger, in terms of policies and other practical solutions. Further information2018-2021Trussel TrustFilip Sosenko
Social Policy in a Divided Britain Heriot Watt are involved in a partnership research programme for the Nuffield Foundation to provide an authoritative, independent and rigorous assessment of social policies and distributional outcomes in 21st century Britain. It will result in a comprehensive, systematic, detailed and cross-cutting analysis of public expenditure and social policy decisions across 10 major areas (social security and general housing; health; social care; early years; compulsory school age education; higher education; employment; safety and security; social mobility; and homelessness / complex needs) together with an in-depth quantitative evidence base on inequalities and social divides across five critical dimensions of life (living standards, health/care, education, employment and safety/security) by key characteristics (age, socio-economic group, ethnic, national and religious group, and area). Heriot Watt will lead on examining key policy developments impacting on people affected by homelessness and other acute and complex needs over the period 2015-2019.2018-2020The Nuffield FoundationSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Homelessness and destitution in Newcastle - Exploring the role of the ‘local state’ in the context of austerity and welfare reformThis study aims to illuminate how Newcastle’s ‘local state’ (NCC and key partners) has responded to the combined welfare reform, austerity and homelessness prevention challenges to date, and to consider how local policy and resources might best be deployed to address these challenges in the years ahead. Whilst the Homelessness Prevention Trailblazer will form the core of the research, the study will encompass Newcastle's wider ambition for a system change programme that creates "coherent responses to the most fundamental changes to the welfare state in 60 years"2018-2019Newcastle City CouncilBeth Watts
Counting the Cost of PovertyThis research estimates the more tangible cost that poverty brings to society, specifically in the form of the cost to the public purse. It illustrates the magnitude of the cost of poverty in order to show the kinds of savings that a sustained reduction in poverty could bring. It also looks at some longer-term consequences of poverty to the Treasury, in terms of reduced revenues and increased benefit payments to people whose earnings potential will be damaged in the future by the experience of poverty today.Further information2016Joseph Rowntree FoundationGlen Bramley
Destitution in the UKDestitution in the UK established the first firm evidence base on the scale, causes and experiences of destitution in this country.
Further information

2015-2018Joseph Rowntree FoundationSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Scottish Government Local Income Household Model
This project involved local level synthetic income modelling research for the year 2014 that has been prepared for the Scottish Government by Heriot Watt University in association with David Simmonds Consultancy. The results provide gross household income distribution estimates at Data Zone level for 2014 for use in housing affordability analyses.Further information2015-2018Scottish GovernmentGlen Bramley
Review and Update of the Indices of Deprivation 2015This project involved updating the Housing Affordability Indicator for the review and update of indices of deprivation, England 2015. Further information2015Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local GovernmentGlen Bramley
Welfare Conditionality, sanctions, support and behaviour changeThe use of conditional welfare arrangements that combine elements of sanction and support is an established element within welfare, housing, criminal justice and immigration systems. This five year research project creates a collaborative, international and interdisciplinary focal point for social science research on welfare conditionality by exploring the efficacy and ethicality of conditionality across social policy fields and diverse groups of welfare service users.
Further information
On the back of this work Heriot Watt’s Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick also produced a book for the Routledge Key Ideas series.
2013-2018ESRCSuzanne Fitzpatrick
Homelessness MonitorThe Homelessness monitor is a longditudinal study commissioned by Crisis and funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The monitor defines ‘core’ and ‘wider’ homelessness and measures the scale of these phenomena for England, Wales and Scotland, as well as forecasting future trends. It examines the impact of policy and legislation on homelessness across the UK.

Further information

2011-2021CrisisGlen Bramley and Suzanne Fitzpatrick