THOUSANDS of people in the North East die in poverty each year, according to estimates published for the first time.

More than 2,000 people a year in County Durham, Darlington and Teesside experienced poverty in the last 12 months of their lives, according to the research by end-of-life charity Marie Curie.

In parts of the region, more than one in five people experienced poverty in the last year of their life.

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Matthew Reed, chief executive of the charity, said: "No one wants to imagine spending the last months of their life shivering in a cold home, struggling to feed themselves, their children, and burdened with the anxiety of falling into debt.”

He added: "We are staggered to see the scale of poverty among dying people – it is shocking."

In total, it was estimated in 2019 there were 4,794 annual deaths in poverty across the North East, with 895 in County Durham, 199 in Darlington and 1,032 in Teesside.

Of these people, 1,476 were pensioners and 648 were of working age.

In Middlesbrough, more than 20 per cent of people who died in 2019 experienced poverty in the last year of their life. This rose to almost 40 per cent among working age people and stood at 17 per cent for pensioners. 

Meanwhile, 16 per cent of deaths in County Durham, and 17 per cent of deaths in Darlington, were of people in poverty.

That was higher than neighbouring of areas of Richmondshire, where 59 people died in poverty - around 12 per cent of total deaths -  and Hambleton, where 107 people died in poverty - around 11 per cent of total deaths.

The Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, which analysed the data from before the pandemic, said the findings could be an underestimate.

Juliet Stone, from the centre, said the cost of living is high and rising, making the physical and financial challenges for people with terminal illnesses even tougher.

She said: "The number of people dying in poverty has almost certainly risen even further since the period covered by our research and will only get higher in the coming months as the cost of living crisis deepens.”

Researchers modelled estimates using a combination of data from a survey which closely followed the lives of thousands of people from 2009 to 2019, and local figures on deprivation.

For most of the findings, the Social Metrics Commission's definition of poverty was used which examines how much someone’s resources, after housing costs, meets their needs – including "inescapable costs" such as childcare and disability.

The research suggests women and people from minority ethnic groups are particularly vulnerable to poverty at the end of life.

The charity is also calling for greater support with energy costs to be made available to all terminally ill people, regardless of their age, and for more support with the costs of childcare for terminally ill parents with young children.

The Department of Work and Pensions said those nearing the end of their lives can get fast-track access to a range of benefits without needing a face-to-face assessment or waiting period.

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A DWP spokesman said policies announced in the Queen's Speech mean more people at the end of life will be able to access some benefits earlier.

He added: “The Government is taking decisive action to ease pressures on the cost of living, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty, and our £1 billion Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs.”


Overall poverty (in the last 12 months of life)

County Durham – 895 (15.9%)

Darlington  - 199 (16.6%)

Hartlepool – 192 (18.9%)

Middlesbrough – 296 (20.8%)

Redcar and Cleveland – 248 (16%)

Stockton – 296 (16%)


Pensioner poverty (in last 12 months of life)

County Durham – 633  (13.3%)

Darlington  - 138 (13.8%)

Hartlepool – 126 (15.3%)

Middlesbrough – 198 (17.1%)

Redcar and Cleveland – 174 (13.3%)

Stockton – 207 (13.3%)


Working age poverty (in last 12 months of life)

County Durham – 262  (29.9%)

Darlington  - 60 (30.9%)

Hartlepool – 66 (33.7%)

Middlesbrough – 98 (37.0%)

Redcar and Cleveland – 74 (29.9%)

Stockton – 88 (29.9%)


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