Affordable National ID cards can be crucial to breaking cycles of poverty and homelessness in the UK
10th May 2022
Poverty is a pertinent and timely issue within the United Kingdom (UK), especially in the
post-pandemic space where many individuals are still suspended in a state of financial
instability due to unemployment and rapid increases in the cost of living. Around 1 in 6 people within the UK are deemed to be in poverty, living in a ‘relative low-income household’, where the household income is 60% below the national average income in the past year across the nation (UK Gov, 2022). This disproportionately impacts minority ethnic families, working-age unemployed adults, and the disabled and renters, with the number of children and pensioners living in poverty being higher than it was five years ago (UK Gov, 2022). Living in poverty is a cyclical phenomenon for many, where these individuals do not have the support, resources, or agency to grasp access opportunities that will end the cycle and alleviate them from this state.
One of the biggest causes of poverty is unemployment, with around 4% of over 16-year-
olds being unemployed in 2022 (ONS, 2022). Many of those that live in poverty, and have been employed, are low skilled, and casual workers who have been unfairly impacted by the changes the pandemic precipitated in the workplace. To save money, many casual and 0-hour contract workers were made redundant and left reliant on meagre state welfare benefits throughout this time frame instead. A large proportion of these individuals are still reliant on this support, struggling to find opportunities for employment due to the workplace hybridity changes that have been taking place. This means that the opportunities for lower skilled workers to find employment are continually diminishing.
However, when there are chances of employment, those that are in poverty are largely
excluded from the application process due to the requirement of photo ID. To apply for a job in the UK, applicants must provide two forms of legal identification, usually something like a passport or driving license and a bank statement for a proof of address. These pieces of photo ID are very expensive, with it costing around £90 to apply for a UK passport and £85 to take just the driving theory and practical tests. That’s not including the cost of lessons or accounting for having to retake a test. The prices of these two pieces of ID are extortionate, with those in poverty not having the cash flow to be able to buy them or the long term need to invest in them, due to not anticipating the future opportunity to drive or travel. Residents on the Topcroft Estate in Erdington, Birmingham, have communicated this first-hand to our CEO Dr Suriyah Bi last month (King: 2022)
The Topcroft Estate which is considered to be one of Birmingham's most deprived areas. Residents told our CEO they would like an affordable national ID card to access employment.
This places those in a state of financial instability in a very precarious position, where
they are caught between paying their bills and buying a passport so that they can apply for jobs. Ultimately, the paying of bills and using finances to meet basic daily needs takes precedence which means that the opportunity for these individuals to seek employment is further limited (Harbitz and Tamargo, 2009). Furthermore, not having access to identification such as a passport or driver's license will limit the support that individuals are entitled to from the state or when they are seeking healthcare. The environment within the UK is one that’s becoming increasingly restrictive where identity and citizenship are checked in everyday spaces, and those that can’t prove legal identity are excluded as a result. This will have detrimental impacts on the quality of life for those that live in poverty, for example in terms of health outcomes or to education, thus furthering this spiral of poverty that they are on.
Following our open letter to the Secretary of Sate for Work and Pensions Dr Therese Coffey, we are continuing to urge the UK government to implement an affordable National Identity card that costs no more than £10 and that will be accepted as a valid form of ID on job application forms. Having an affordable way of obtaining proof of identity will give more opportunities to those that are in poverty or experiencing financial instability, which will ultimately help them leave the state of poverty in which they have been living. This will ensure for a more equitable society, where regardless of socioeconomic status, the population is afforded the same access to the employment market. This will decrease unemployment and poverty rates within the UK and have knock off effects such as improved health and educational outcomes in these communities, benefiting both the community and the state.
King, E. (2022). 'Erdington Ward Labour candidate Suriyah Bi petitions Government for £10 ID cards to help employment'. Erdington Local. http://www.erdingtonlocal.com/news-labour-suriyah-bi-petitions-government-for-10-id-cards/
Harbitz, M. and Tamargo, M. (2009) ‘The significance of legal identity in situations of poverty
and social exclusion’. Available at: https://publications.iadb.org/en/significance-legal-identity-situations-poverty-and-social-exclusion-link-between-gender-ethnicity
UK Government (2022) ‘Poverty in the UK: Statistics’. Available at:
https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn07096/ (Accessed: 30/04/2022).
Office of National Statistics (2022) ‘Unemployment’. Available at: