Social Justice

7 million families have missed out on food and hot water this year due to the cost of living crisis

Anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says 2.3 million households didn't have enough food and couldn't afford to heat their home this year either.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says 2.3m households couldn't afford to eat properly or heat their homes last month. Image: Pexels

Around seven million UK households have missed out on food or essentials like showers and toiletries this year because they couldn’t afford them, research has found. That’s equivalent to every family in the north of England. 

According to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, people are faced with an impossible position of “choosing between paying rent on time or feeding their loved ones, in many cases unable to do either”. 

The anti-poverty charity found 2.3 million households did not have the choice between heating their home or having enough food – because they couldn’t afford to do either. That’s one in five low-income families.

Low-income families have fallen behind on payments by an average of £1,600, while people on low-incomes have taken on £12.5billion in debt in 2022 alone. It brings their total debt to £22bn, £3.5bn of which is owed to high-cost lenders such as illegal loan sharks and doorstep lenders.

The JRF claims “the government is causing severe hardship by using the benefit system to collect some debts”. It is calling on the government to let families pay back their debt more slowly instead of deducting those funds from their benefits at unaffordable rates. 

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy advisor at JRF said: “No one should be put in this precarious position. The hardship families are facing now builds on the foundations of a decade of cuts and freezes to social security. 

“The chancellor’s cost of living support package will offer some temporary relief, but rather than lurching from emergency to emergency, the government must get ahead of this problem.”

Three in five of all low-income families (60 per cent) had gone without essentials since the start of 2022, or they had skipped meals or gone hungry in the previous 30 days. That’s almost seven million households.

A total of 4.6 million low-income households (40 per cent) are behind on at least one bill, which is up by 20 per cent since last October. 

Almost half of families receiving universal credit have money deducted from their allowance by the government. According to the JRF, people lose an average of £61 a month in deductions.

People who have money deducted from their benefits are almost certainly going without essentials, with 94 per cent of them admitting that they have gone without necessities like toiletries, showers and heating this year.

Schmuecker added: “The way the government collects debts is making an already bad situation far worse, by making an already low basic rate of social security even lower still. It leaves too little to cover the essentials at the best of times, let alone during the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation – a crisis which shows no signs of abating.”

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