Legal protection against destitution in the UK: towards a right to a subsistence minimum?

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In a 2003 Supreme Court judgment, Lord Hoffmann argued that in the absence of a guaranteed minimum standard of living, many other rights are reduced to ‘a mockery’. Arguably this was the experience of the 2.4 million UK residents who experienced destitution in 2019. Research by the authors has found no clear basis for a right to protection from destitution in the UK. The common law, social rights treaties and the European Convention on Human Rights can each play a role in identifying a minimum standard of living, but with variable precision, generosity and enforceability – and subject to the sovereign legislature setting its own social floor, including one that may render people destitute. We argue that part of the solution to this failure of rights protection is a specific statutory duty to protect against destitution. This paper is intended to start a conversation on how we might begin to move towards making this vision a reality.
Period5 Apr 2023
Event titleSocio-Legal Studies Association annual conference 2023
Event typeConference
LocationDerry-Londonderry, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • destitution
  • poverty
  • social rights
  • social justice
  • human rights