Advertisement
Social Justice

Some people could soon be spending more than half their income on energy bills

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also found families with children are falling deeper into poverty and being trapped in it for prolonged periods, with Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black families worst affected.

People already on low incomes will be spending an average 54 per cent of their income on heating and electricity from April, new figures have revealed.

Single-adult households living below the breadline will face a dramatic rise of 21 percentage points from 2020 – calculated after housing costs – when the energy price cap increases in three months’ time, according to Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) analysis.

“The government cannot stand by and allow the rising cost of living to knock people off their feet,” said Katie Schmuecker, deputy director of policy and partnerships for JRF.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

Support us

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

“Rising energy prices will affect us all, but our analysis shows they have the potential to devastate the budgets of families on the lowest incomes.

“The alarm is sounding loud and clear and the case for targeted support to help people on the lowest incomes could not be clearer.”

Lone parents and couples without children are also set to be hit hard as the energy crisis unfolds, spending around a quarter of their incomes on energy bills.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Break the cycle of poverty for good
Big Futures is calling on the Government to put in place a plan and policies to break this cycle of poverty for good. We are calling for long-term solutions to meet the biggest issues faced in the UK today – the housing crisis, low wages and the climate crisis. Dealing with these issues will help the UK to protect the environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing of future generations. So that young people and future generations have a fair shot at life. Join us and demand a better future.

Everyone can expect an increase of between roughly 40 to 47 per cent in their fuel bills, the report said, but the impact will be far from universal. Middle-income households of all family types will be paying no more than eight per cent of their incomes on energy.

The flagship report also revealed that half a million more children are living in financial hardship compared to 2012, and they are experiencing hardship for longer. Nearly two million children in the UK were already living in very deep poverty before the pandemic, meaning their household’s income was an average £9,900 or less after housing costs, taxes and national insurance costs – or “so low that it is completely inadequate to cover the basics”.

Low-income families are “enduring a miserable winter of cuts to universal credit, soaring energy bills and the prospect of yet more price rises,” said Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, in response to the findings.

“Families with children are among the hardest hit by this crisis as they typically face bigger bills, have smaller savings and are less able to take on extra work.

“It’s been clear from our services for many years that more and more families have been falling into deep poverty. The government has been in denial about high and rising child poverty and simply doesn’t have a strategy to tackle it.”

“Living in fuel-poor homes is linked to a higher risk of physical and mental health problems in children and can negatively affect their development,” Hussain added. “Before this crisis becomes a catastrophe, ministers need to take urgent targeted action for these families. The best way to help low-income families with children is by increasing the child element of universal credit and bringing the value of benefits up in line with the rise in inflation.”

Article continues below

Families with children are not only falling deeper into poverty but being trapped in it for prolonged periods of time, JRF researchers said, with Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black families worst affected.

Roughly one in five children lived on a low income for at least three of the four years between 2016 and 2019. This increased to around one in three children for those in lone parent families.

“For many young children, this persistence of poverty means going without essentials is all they have ever known or can remember,” analysts said.

The organisation called for targeted support including an emergency, immediate payment for people on the lowest incomes to stop them falling into destitution when the energy price cap rises in April.

This is particularly important following the universal credit cut which left the benefit rates for people who are unable to work or looking for work “profoundly inadequate”, they noted.

“No childhood should be defined by a daily struggle to afford the basics,” Shmuecker said. “But the reality is that many children growing up today won’t have known anything else. The fact that more children are in poverty and sinking deeper into poverty should shame us all.”  

Targeted cash support “must go hand in hand with urgent action to strengthen our social security system, which was woefully inadequate even before living costs began to rise,” she added. 

“Our basic rate of benefits is at its lowest real rate for 30 years and this is causing avoidable hardship. The government must do the right thing and strengthen this vital public service.” 

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Christmas

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.

Recommended for you

Read All
What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?
Cost of living crisis

What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK
Cost of living crisis

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?
Energy bills

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?

Four in five of the children’s homes in England are run for profit – here’s why that is a problem
Child poverty

Four in five of the children’s homes in England are run for profit – here’s why that is a problem

Most Popular

Read All
Here's when and where nurses are going on strike
1.

Here's when and where nurses are going on strike

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'
2.

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment
3.

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways
4.

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways