Third of low-income households unable to pay bills, finds research

Quasi 4 million low-income households are behind on rent, bills or debt payments, up threefold since the pandemic hit, according to a study revealing the growing cost of the living crisis facing the UK’s poorest families.

A third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £25,000 or less were found to be in arrears on their rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax bills or personal debt repayments, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The charity called for urgent government action to support families at the sharp end of pandemic-related financial pressures, including the reinstatement of the £20 uplift in universal credit, which was withdrawn earlier this month, and help with debts.

“Behind these figures are parents gripped by anxiety, wondering how they will put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help cover their rent and avoid eviction,” said Katie Schmuecker, the JRF deputy director for policy and partnerships.

Nel frattempo, the Tory-controlled District Councils Network (DCN), which represents 200 councils in English towns, has warned of a surge in homelessness this winter as a result of the end to government support measures such as furlough and the eviction ban.

A survey of district councils completed earlier this month found that just under three-quarters reported an increase in homelessness acceptances over the past four months, while nearly two-thirds said people they had housed during the pandemic had recently slipped “back in the homelessness cycle”.

District councils also reported increased numbers of families seeking support, and increases in the numbers of residents with severe mental health and other complex needs using council services. More than a third of councils reported significant increases in referrals to local food banks.

Phil King, a DCN spokesperson and the Conservative leader of Harborough district council in Leicestershire, said that without extra financial support for councils and struggling households, the government risked undoing much of the work it had done to tackle homelessness over the past 18 mesi.

Egli ha detto: “The findings of this survey reveal the stark impact the pandemic and the ending of emergency support measures continues to have on households across the country.”

The JRF surveyed 4,200 UK adults in households in the lowest 40% of incomes earlier this month. The findings indicate that 3.8 million households are behind with household bills, 950,000 are in rent arrears, 1.4 million are behind on council tax bills, e 1.4 million are behind on electricity and gas bills.

A third of all low-income families are in arrears, dal 11% prior to the pandemic, it estimated. This rises to 44% of working-age households and 71% of younger households aged between 18 e 24. Families with children and black, Asian and minority ethnic households were particularly hard hit.

The JRF said there were signs the financial impact of the pandemic had “dragged families who were previously just about managing into arrears on essential bills”. Quasi 90% of households now behind on their household bills said that they were always or often able to pay all their bills in full and on time before the pandemic.

Families are facing a range of financial pressures over the coming months including rising energy and food bills and a rise in national insurance contributions next April to pay for the government’s social care reforms.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “We know the best route towards financial independence is through well-paid work, which is why our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs is helping boost skills and opportunity, while universal credit continues to provide a vital safety net for millions.

“The Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable with essential costs through this winter, and is distributed by councils, who are best placed to ensure those in need in their local areas can be identified and supported as soon as possible.”

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