Essential Clothing and Health Inequality

Updated: Apr 18

Let’s talk about people in need of essential clothing. Clothing need is real, and it is often overlooked as an indicator of poverty and of health inequality. It is unjust, avoidable, and together we can do something about it.



When we talk about health inequalities, we are talking about avoidable and unfair differences in health that exist between different groups within our society. There are many factors which impact a person’s access to a healthy lifestyle, and the circumstances which lead to poor health are often beyond a person’s control.


According to NHS England, factors that affect health include:

  • Socio-economic factors: e.g. unemployment, low income, living in a deprived area, poor education, inadequate accommodation.

  • Protected characteristics: e.g. gender, ethnicity, disability.

  • Vulnerable groups: e.g. rough sleepers and homeless people.

Health inequalities that exist between different groups in society are by definition both avoidable and unjust. In a fair and equal society, everyone would have the same opportunities to lead a healthy life. We would all have sufficient income to ensure a safe and warm place to live. We would all have the same access to high quality medical care and support. We would all have access to the education, information and social support that we need to make healthy choices. We would all have healthy foods to eat. And we would all have access to essential clothing.

The right to essential clothing is a basic human need and relates directly to health. Clothing provides physical protection from sun, rain, snow and wind, and keeps us safe from infections, contaminants and environmental hazards. Clothing is fundamental to physical health and also to mental health, impacting how others view us and behave towards us, as well as our own sense of identity and self-esteem.


Imagine a harsh winter without warm clothes. Imagine rain, wind and snow without a coat. Imagine being street homeless and in need of essential clothing. Imagine the devastating impact on physical and mental health.

Clothing need is a health inequality because it is an unfair and avoidable factor which contributes to poor health. And yet it is a need which is often unrecognised and unmet; whilst the need for foodbanks is widely acknowledged, strategies to help people in need of essential clothing are not so widespread.


This is where Clothing Collective makes a difference. This is where you can make a difference.


Your donations fund Clothing Collective vouchers. Our partner foodbanks, night shelters and support services distribute these vouchers to people in need. People can then visit our partner charity shops and exchange their Clothing Collective vouchers for essential clothing.


By donating to Clothing Collective, you become part of the solution.


You can make donations to Clothing Collective here.


Instagram - @clothing__collective, Twitter - @charityvoucher, Facebook - Clothe Me - Thank You.

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