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One-third of low-income households are unable to pay their bills, study finds | Domestic invoices

Nearly 4 million low-income households are in arrears with rent payments, bills or debts, three times more since the start of the pandemic, according to a study revealing the increasing cost of the crisis of life which are facing them. facing the poorest families in the UK.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), a third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £ 25,000 or less were in arrears with their rent or mortgage payments, utility bills public, their local taxes or their personal debts. .

The charity called for urgent government action to support families at the abrupt end of financial pressures from the pandemic, including reinstating the £ 20 universal credit increase, which was withdrawn earlier this month, and debt relief.

“Behind these numbers are anxious parents who wonder how they are going to put food on their children’s plates and pay the gas bill; young people forced to rely on friends to help them pay their rent and avoid eviction, ”said Katie Schmuecker, JRF Deputy Director for Policy and Partnerships.

Meanwhile, the Tory-controlled District Councils Network (DCN), which represents 200 councils in English towns, has warned of an upsurge in homelessness this winter following the end of government support measures. government such as leave and deportation ban.

A survey of district councils completed earlier this month found that just under three-quarters reported an increase in homelessness acceptances in the past four months, while nearly two-thirds said that the people they housed during the pandemic had recently slipped “into the cycle of homelessness”.

District councils have also reported an increase in the number of families seeking support and an increase in the number of residents with severe mental health issues and other complex needs using the council’s services. More than a third of boards reported a significant increase in referrals to local food banks.

Phil King, DCN spokesperson and Conservative leader of Harborough District Council in Leicestershire, said without additional financial support for struggling councils and households the government risked undoing much of the work that he had done to fight homelessness for the past 18 months.

He said: “The results of this survey reveal the tremendous impact that the pandemic and the end of emergency support measures continue to have on households across the country.”

The JRF surveyed 4,200 UK adults in households in the lowest 40% of income earlier this month. The results show that 3.8 million households are behind on household bills, 950,000 are behind on rent, 1.4 million are behind on municipal tax bills and 1.4 million are behind on municipal tax bills. electricity and gas bills.

A third of all low-income families are in arrears, up from 11% before the pandemic, he estimated. This figure rises to 44% of working-age households and 71% of younger households aged 18-24. Families with children and black, Asian and ethnic minority households have been particularly affected.

The JRF said there were signs the financial impact of the pandemic had “dragged out families who were previously on the verge of dealing with backlogs of essential bills.” Almost 90% of households currently behind on their household bills said they were always or often able to pay all of their bills in full and on time before the pandemic.

Families face a series of financial pressures in the coming months, including rising energy and food bills and an increase in national insurance contributions next April to pay for the government’s welfare reforms.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We know that the best path to financial independence is through a well-paid job, which is why our multibillion-pound Jobs Plan is helping build skills and opportunities, while universal credit continues to provide a vital safety net for millions of people.

“The Household Support Fund is helping the most vulnerable cover essential costs throughout this winter and is being distributed by the councils, who are best placed to ensure that those in need in their local areas can be reached. identified and taken care of as soon as possible. “

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