'Hygiene poverty' as families forced to choose between food and keeping clean

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One in two Londoners have been forced to go without essential personal hygiene products because they are unable to afford them, a shocking study has found.

According to a report released today by a UK charity, struggling families across the country are encountering so-called “hygiene poverty” on a massive scale.

Many people are having to choose between either buying food or essential hygiene products like toothpaste, deodorant, nappies, tampons, razors and shampoo.

The report found 56 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds across the UK have had to forego hygiene or grooming essentials, or cut down on them, due to lack of funds.

And in London, 51 per cent of people surveyed had to go without personal hygiene products because of cost.

In Kind Direct, the charity founded by the Prince of Wales, published the report. The charity said it is continuing to tackle the problem and last year handed out more than £20 million donated products to 2,550 smaller organisations to distribute.


More than half of Londoners have been forced to go without key sanitary products. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Robin Boles, the head of the foundation, said the problem is “hitting families hard”.

He said: “We are seeing an increase in ‘hygiene poverty’ – people being forced to choose between eating and keeping clean. 

“The fact that last year was In Kind Direct’s busiest year ever distributing products to charities and the people they help, highlights the stark choices people are facing. 

“Our survey shows the significant impact this has on self-esteem. With 75 per cent of people who are given products telling us receiving these goods boosted their confidence and ability to move forward in life, having access to life’s essentials really does make a world of difference.”

Today’s report comes after it was revealed schoolgirls are regularly missing school because they cannot afford sanitary products.

Charity Freedom4Girls which usually provides emergency protection for menstruating girls and women in Kenya was drafted in to offer the same support at a school in Yorkshire.

After its busiest year, In Kind Direct is now calling on more manufacturers and retailers to donate products regularly. 

Rucksana Begum, 32, is helped by her local charity in Tyneside which distributes hygiene products.

“I’m a new mum, not working, so I struggle to pay household bills,” she said.

“Not having to worry about buying sanitary towels, shaving gel and products, which I wouldn’t be able to afford, is a big help. I feel better about myself and it helps my mental wellbeing. 

“Nice products make me want to look after myself, so I really appreciate them. This means I can buy things I wouldn’t normally be able to afford, so I can economise and mix buying baby food jars with homemade food.”

Shuley Alam, head of Crest UK, one of In Kind Direct’s recipient charities, said: “No matter what social background our ladies are from, personal care and hygiene is important to them. The products we get from In Kind Direct mean we can give them good quality personal hygiene products they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. Their priority is providing for their children, so when they do get a product, they are really proud and take care of their appearance. We’ve seen more people coming to our centre and increased demand for help with hygiene products over the last year.”

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