Poverty and destitution

POVERTY AND DESTITUTION – helping Eastern Europeans meet ends and maintain homes

We offer information and advice in:

  • welfare benefits and tax credits
  • housing benefits and social housing
  • debt
  • health services
  • vocational training and adult skills education

We offer practical skills training in areas of effective job seeking:

  • individual tuition on using internet to search online for jobs and other opportunities – we start in January 2017!
  • English-for-work classes specifically tailored to needs of Eastern European speakers – we start in January 2017!

How to use this service

In person: drop-in surgery every Monday and Thursday, 9.30am to discuss your problem, get free advice, book an appointment or enrol on English classes
Telephone: call 020 8741 1288 or 0800 121 4226 to discuss your problem and book an appointment
Email: write to enquire about English courses and book a place english@eerc.org.uk 

Please note: we cannot see people without pre-booked appointments during the week. 

Please make sure that you have ALL RELEVANT documents when you come to a drop-in surgery or to an appointment.



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As many as 25% Eastern European migrants in London live in poverty. It may be as many as 80,000 – 100,000 people. Many of them with children. This estimate is based on our own research ‘Eastern Europeans in London‘ >>> East-Europeans-in-London-December-2013 (Dec 2013) and some other research pieces, such as Migration Watch’s Economic Characteristics of Migrants in the UK (July 2015).

It is an astounding fact, taking into account that nearly all of Eastern Europeans are economically active (86% according to ONS, Census 2011). However, their economic activity is not enough to satisfy needs that would bring the lower quartile from financial vulnerability. Migration Watch’s report indicates that Eastern Europeans work harder (86% in work to 57% British-born) but 70% earn less than median; 90% households are below annualized £26,000 income.

It is coupled with very low or non-existent savings or investment and living in private rented housing, as shown in our above mentioned research – there are no resources to turn to when the crisis strikes. Our report shows that this is not an uncommon situation for Eastern Europeans: 20% of respondents were struggling or seriously struggling on the day of the interview and 30% of all respondents experienced a financial crisis (described as lack of money for food, accommodation and other essentials) at least once since the arrival. Staggering 22% of them ‘went without’, only 17% ever checked benefit entitlements and 8% had access to bank loan.

Eastern European Londoners are a hardworking and resilient group so majority of migrants succeed. There are some though that are more disadvantaged. Key areas of disadvantage relate to their age, health status, family situation and a level of skills that may make it more difficult to stay at work, progress to better paid jobs or maintain accommodation. One of the factors contributing to vulnerability of this group is changes affecting eligibility of welfare and housing aid, and resulting confusion among migrants and institutions alike. More on changes to welfare and housing eligibility in Rights of the EU citizens in the UK project webpage.

Confusion and difficulty in evidencing the right status as an EU citizen cause various forms of problems and discrimination which may be intended and unintended. Examples of institutional discrimination that we came across are blank negative decisions for all EU accession migrants, Habitual Residence Tests performed by DWP being rejected by local authorities insisting on conducting their own HRT based on unpublished guidelines, or rejecting EU migrants’ status altogether. Sign up to our social media accounts to read more.

All these issues – low income, financial vulnerability, confusion in face of changing welfare systems – is aided by limited awareness of rights. While this problem is being tackled on its own through our Rights of the EU citizens in the UK project, the outcome is often grim. Eviction, homelessness, diminishing mental health and physical health follow. Our casework consistently shows link between low income, loss of work, difficulty in accessing social aid and homelessness.