Hygiene Poverty – The Unseen Issue That Remains Unspoken

Nearly one in four UK children, including 10,000 that leave care annually, currently live in poverty – leaving them at heightened risk of ‘hygiene poverty’; two new ‘hygiene banks’ opening each week

Rising numbers of people in vulnerable situations across the UK are falling into ‘hygiene poverty’ as their inability to pay for basic products is increasing, a new report has found.


The ‘Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK’ report compiled by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) highlights the widespread nature of current levels of poverty that adversely affects nearly one in four[1] UK children, including 10,000[2] that leave care annually as well as ‘working poor’ families, people with disabilities, pensioners.

National charity, ‘The Hygiene Bank’ are calling for this issue to take prominence in the fight against normalising poverty. Hygiene is about physical and mental wellbeing, self-confidence and dignity. Hygiene poverty is shaming, isolating and excluding – the stigma attached affects all areas of life including work, school and relationships.

For example, various recent surveys have exhibited the full effects of hygiene poverty within schools. 46% of teachers said they’d seen children being bullied for hygiene issues [3] and another study found one in ten girls cannot afford sanitary products and many miss school because of it [4].
With those living in poverty having to make difficult choices about where to spend their money, the charity have already opened around 90 dedicated banks, accumulating 300 drop-off points. These sites collect vital donations to distribute among the hardest hit. Currently, the issue is so great that they’re having to open another two sites a week.

Since their founding, they’ve donated over 24 tonnes of hygiene and personal care products to people in need, equating to over £250,000 worth of shampoo, conditioner, washing powder, nappies, deodorant and razors among many other vital products.

Kent-based charity founder Lizzy Hall, launched The Hygiene Bank last August from her living room, after watching Ken Loach’s anti-austerity film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ – and being horrified by the scene where character Katie, a struggling young single mother, is caught shoplifting sanitary towels, razors and deodorant because she’s so poor she can’t pay for them.

A shocked Lizzy initially sent a plea to friends on her WhatsApp, asking for any unused and unwanted toiletries that she would package and send to her local food bank.

The initiative snowballed, and The Hygiene Bank is now a registered national charity with 300+ donation drop off points across 90 locations in the UK. 

Local drop off points are Encore on Castle Street and Crossfit Cirencester on Elliot Road both in Cirencester along with drop off points in Tetbury, Nailsworth and Malmesbury.

Lizzy Hall said: 

“Hygiene is about well being, self confidence and dignity. We believe no one should be left struggling to wash their hair, brush their teeth, change their baby’s nappy as often as needed or not afford sanitary protection because of low wages, high housing costs, benefit cuts, illness or bereavement. The Hygiene Bank gives people in crisis access to these basic hygiene and personal care essentials to give them back their dignity. We’re very grateful to everyone who has supported the charity so far, especially those who have volunteered their time to manage the local drop off points.”

[1] – http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/child-poverty-facts-and-figures 

[2] –https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/266484/Care_Leaver_Strategy.pdf

[3] – https://plan-uk.org/media-centre/1-in-10-girls-have-been-unable-to-afford-sanitary-wear-survey-finds

[4] – https://www.inkinddirect.org/primary-school-children-in-hygiene-poverty/