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.
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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.