A recent report undertaken by the charity Hygiene Bank shows that approximately 3.2 million UK adults are affected by hygiene poverty, 12% of these stating that they have avoided going into work because of this.
In the original report published by the BBC, Hygiene Bank chief executive Ruth Brock said it was a “hidden crisis”.
“It’s much more widespread than we feared, it’s increasing, and it’s disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable,” she said.
Hygiene Bank is one of many charities that supplies food banks, homeless shelters, schools, and other organisations with personal hygiene products including but not exclusively toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, nappies, period products and laundry detergent.
Hygiene poverty often falls under the radar with issues such as fuel and food poverty coming first leaving many unable to access essential hygiene products. The reality is that once a person is dependant upon food banks they have already stopped being able to purchase said items with priority going to heating and eating.
“I think it just doesn’t occur to people in the same way that fuel and food poverty do,” said Ms Brock.
In a survey undertaken by Hygiene Bank that questioned approximately 2,200 people, with the assistance of polling company YouGov it suggests that the amount of people impacted by hygiene poverty equated to 6% of all UK adults, rising to 13% from lower-income households and 21% of disabled people.
People experiencing hygiene poverty are most likely to go without shaving products, laundry detergent, household cleaning items, and deodorant, the survey found. The survey also reports that a quarter of respondents said they had gone without toilet paper or soap or shower gel, while three in ten women did not buy period products.
The survey also reveals that people are being forced to shop local thus costing more because they can’t afford to travel to a larger shop or supermarket.
A woman that the charity has worked with described how she is forced to dilute products to make them last longer. She also has resorted to tying up her hair in a certain way to hide the fact she often had not washed it for weeks at a time.
She also reported that she feels that she has to keep a distance from people for fear that she smells with many unable to afford to buy period products thus making them feel ashamed to go out
Hygiene Bank’s Ruth Brock is quoted as saying said that such accounts of peoples experiences may “seem counterintuitive” to some also saying: “But it’s so insidious, you kind of cut yourself off.”
The report found that 62% of people experiencing hygiene poverty with dependent children said they have had to choose between buying products for themselves or their children.
It’s a choice that shouldn’t have to be made, families are made to feel ashamed to leave their home and avoiding social contact at schools because they feel ashamed because of their situation.
“This is why we have mums telling us about being ashamed to leave the house and not seeing anyone for weeks on
It’s important to remember that the data in the report draws on surveys conducted between October 2021 and February 2022, before the recent surge in the cost of living. As a result the everyday pressures upon those in need are undoubtably going to worsen with more people being forced into this situation.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics the price of shampoo has increased by 8% in the last year and shower gel is up by 11%.
The price of toothpaste has risen 6%, and the price of deodorant is up 5%.
Hygiene poverty is also affecting students such as Adam, a college student whose attendance had fallen to 18%, in part because he could not afford basic hygiene products. This inevitably resulted in his grades suffering as a result.
According to the original report by the BBC his support worker approached Hygiene Bank in the summer of 2020 and they were able to provide deodorant and shampoo. Adam’s attendance rose to 100%, and he is now attending university.
“Hygiene is important enough,” says Ms Brock. “But the follow-on effects of making that change for people also mean that they can then start to access their life chances.”
Undoubtably hygiene poverty is having a detrimental affect on many and at the time of writing it appears to be unspoken about by many. We need to make this a very important topic of conversation both with the public and opposition MPs, after all Tory MPS are very unlikely to do so.
For anyone that can afford to as well as donating food products to food banks it’s also important to remember that donating hygiene products is also vitally important along with pets food and suchlike.
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