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UK government's welfare reforms piling misery on the poorest households - report

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UK government's welfare reforms piling misery on the poorest households - report

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Bill Payments, Central Government

UK government's welfare reforms piling misery on the poorest households - report UK government's welfare reforms piling misery on the poorest households - report

The devastating impact of the government's welfare reforms on people living in social housing is laid bare in the latest Real Life Reform report, published today.

And life is getting particularly hard for tenants in northern England where tough decisions are having to be made on basic day-to-day requirements such as buying food and heating homes.

Research for the Real Life Reform report was carried out between April and early May and shows that people are dealing with mounting debt, borrowing from loan sharks and turning to food banks.

In the worst cases, the report revealed that unemployed households are left with just £1.47 per day after bills – a drop of 17% since 2013.

Almost a quarter (24%) of people in debt owe money to a pay day lender or loan shark while 43.5% of people in debt will take more than four years to repay their debts or don't know when they will be paid off.

The percentage of in-debt households owing more than £2,000 has risen to 52.8% from 44% in the last report in March and the average weekly debt repayments have more than doubled. Nine months ago they were £18.21. They now total £37.36 per week.

The report also shows that 12.5% of respondents have used a food bank at least once in the last three months and the weekly spending on fuel is 9.1 per cent higher than at the start of the study, with an average of £28.37 being spent per week.

Spend per person per day on fuel has increased to £4.05 from £1.97 in September 2013 while spend on food per person per day has reduced to £2.79 from £3.28 in September 2013. According to the report, three out of 10 households spend less than £20 per week on food.

Average money left after bills has increased slightly but at £2.82 per day across all of the households is not proving to be sufficient to cope with unexpected expenditure.

There has been a 29% reduction in money left each week after bills for those in full time employment. They now have an average of £46.43 left each week after bills.

Unemployed households have got poorer. With £10.32 per week, or £1.47 per day, left after bills, this is a 17% reduction since the start of the study.

Andy Williams, director of neighbourhood services at Liverpool Housing Trust (LHT) and chair of the Real Life Reform Steering Group, said: “These latest findings show just how hard families are continuing to be hit as they try to cope with the benefit changes.

“As well as average weekly debt repayments doubling, a considerable number of people are relying on loan sharks and pay-day lenders.

“For many there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel because they have no idea whether they’ll ever be able to pay back what they’ve borrowed.

“Meanwhile, families are struggling with little or no food. Almost a third of households spend less that £20 a week on food, while some are relying on foodbanks to survive. It would also seem that some people in very real poverty are not using a foodbank and we plan to investigate this further in the next round to find out why.”

Twenty-nine per cent of Real Life Reform study participants were employed when the latest study was carried out, but more than a quarter of them were on zero-hours contracts.

Mr Williams added: “The prominence of zero-hours contracts is a real issue and is causing people a great deal of stress. The uncertainty prevents them planning for the future and adds to other worries about coping financially.

“Combined, these issues could explain why concerns about the impact of all the changes on participants’ health are growing.”



Halton Housing Trust, Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, Leeds Federated, Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association, Liverpool Housing Trust, North Star Housing Group and Stockport Homes took part in the study, which was developed with the support of the University of York and the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC).

Real Life Reform report - key findings:

  • 24% of people in debt owe money to a pay day lender or loan shark
  • 43.5% of people in debt will take more than 4 years to repay their debts or don't know when they will be paid off
  • The percentage of in-debt households owing more than £2,000 has risen to 52.8% from 44% in the last report
  • Average weekly debt repayments have more than doubled. Nine months ago they were £18.21. They now total £37.36 per week
  • 12.5% have used a food bank at least once in the last 3 months
  • Weekly spending on fuel is 9.1% higher than at the start of the study, with an average of £28.37 being spent per week
  • Spend per person per day on fuel has increased to £4.05 from £1.97 in September 2013
  • Spend on food per person per day has reduced to £2.79 from £3.28 in September 2013 
  • Three out of 10 households spend less than £20 per week on food
  • Average money left after bills has increased slightly but at £2.82 per day across all of the households is not proving to be sufficient to cope with unexpected expenditure
  • There has been a 29% reduction in money left each week after bills for those in full time employment. They now have an average of £46.43 left each week after bills
  • Unemployed households have got poorer. With £10.32 per week, or £1.47 per day, left after bills, this is a 17% reduction since the start of the study.

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