FAMILIES on low incomes are slipping further and further below the minimum amount needed to achieve a basic quality of life, new figures show.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said that rising inflation and the benefits freeze was affecting both families out of work, and those in work, leaving them with bigger shortfalls in their household budgets. It has called for the freeze in benefits to be lifted.
An average family with two children is now estimated to need at least £40,800 a year to maintain a minimum standard of living.
The annual Minimum Income standard is set each year by the Centre for Research in Social Policy, at Loughborough University, and acts as a barometer of living standards for households on low incomes. It is based on what members of the public believe people need for a minimum standard of living, including money for school trips, presents, and school uniforms.
The JRF’s latest findings show that a single person, working full-time and earning the new National Living Wage, earns 22 per cent less than the figure needed for a minimum standard of living.
People on out-of-work benefits receive just over a third of what is needed, and families on out-of-work benefits receive just over half of the money needed to reach the standard.
The chief executive of the JRF, Campbell Robb, said: “Working families are facing bigger holes in their budgets, worth hundreds of pounds, despite a higher National Living Wage and tax cuts. It means millions of families are facing a struggle to make ends meet as the cost of getting by in modern Britain rises ever higher. Struggling families tell us [that], as well as juggling the bills, it’s things like after-school clubs and swimming lessons that must be sacrificed . . .
”With the Bank of England forecasting inflation will increase even higher this year, families are facing no respite. We need the Government to take action and ensure living standards do not fall backwards. Lifting the freeze on working-age benefits and tax credits must be the start, along with allowing people to keep more of their earnings.”
The Government this week promised to take seriously a review of employment practices which urged changes to ensure that work was “fair and decent”. The review, carried out by Matthew Taylor, chief executive to the Royal Society of Arts and a former aide to Tony Blair, said that in the so-called “gig economy” there was too much power in the hands of employers. The review sought to address fears about the treatment of those employed on zero-hours contracts, particularly those working for app-based companies such as Uber.
Mr Taylor told the BBC: “There are too many people at work who are treated like cogs in a machine rather than being human beings, and there are too many people who don’t see a route from their current job to progress and earn more and do better.”
The Living Wage foundation welcomed the Taylor review, and said that it hoped it would be “the start of a debate about what being a good employer means in the modern labour market”.