In Kind Direct charity warns of ‘hidden crisis’ facing thousands after it distributes £20.2m of hygiene products in one year
Growing numbers of people are facing hygiene poverty, where they are unable to afford essential products such as shampoo and deodorant, and are having to choose between eating and keeping clean, a charity has found.
A report from In Kind Direct says thousands of people are seeking help and describes the issue as a “hidden crisis”. Last year the charity distributed a record £20.2m of hygiene products, a rise of 67% on £12.1m the year before.
Robin Boles, chief executive of In Kind Direct, said: “This is hitting families hard. The fact that last year was our busiest year ever, distributing products to charities and the people they help, highlights the stark choices people are facing.”
The study has prompted campaigners to call for the government to do more to alleviate poverty. They say cuts to working benefits coupled with rising inflation have left families struggling.
Samantha Stapley, operations manager for England at the Trussell Trust food bank network, described the report as “very concerning”. She added: “When people are referred to food banks with no money for food, they’re often struggling to afford other basic essentials too.”
The report shows 82% of 948 charities have seen an increase in demand over the past year from people who cannot afford essential items.
A further poll of 1,000 people, conducted by In Kind Direct, found that 37% of those surveyed, and 56% of 18- to 24-year-olds, have had to go without hygiene or grooming products, or cut down on them, owing to low finances.
Stapley said Trussell Trust research with the University of Oxford had found that more than half of the households visiting the network’s food banks were struggling to afford toiletries.
She added that voluntary organisations alone could not resolve the problem and the underlying causes of poverty needed to be addressed. “Making work more secure, tackling the high cost of living and working to reduce the issues people experience with benefit payments would all make a difference,” she said.
Her words were echoed by Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child PovertyAction Group, who said: “To tackle it we first need to ensure that benefits once again reflect families’ needs and so rise with inflation. No one should have to suffer the indignity of living without basic sanitary products.”