March 22, 2022
by University of York
Going without food and heating has become a routine part of daily life for families on low incomes, according to the latest findings from the COVID Realities project.
Researchers say families on low-incomes are facing the fallout from the disruptions triggered by COVID-19, climate change, Brexit and now the war in Ukraine as the price of essential goods and services rise sharply.
COVID Realities was launched in April 2020 to document the experiences of parents and carers living on low-incomes during the pandemic.
The project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, was due to end in December 2021, but has now been extended to capture the scale of the emerging cost of living crisis on everyday life on a low-income.
The findings from this additional work, which ran from November 2021 to March 2022, involved online diaries, responses to video elicited questions and online discussion groups. Parents and carers themselves developed recommendations of what needs to change, and why.
Dr. Ruth Patrick, who leads the research program from the University of York's Social Policy & Social Work said: "As winter 2021 loomed, we knew that the combination of the £20 cut to Universal Credit and the growing cost of living crisis would make daily life only harder still for families struggling on a low-income.
"Even so, the evidence generated from this research is a damning indictment of the extent and nature of hardship that families on a low-income routinely face.
"Families have nowhere else left to cut, and there is a pressing need for the UK Government to improve the social security system so it supports families and guarantees them a decent level of income."
In advance of the Spring Statement, parents and carers on a low-income are calling for urgent reform to social security.
The key findings are:
Dr. Jim Kaufman, lead author of this report, said: "These findings underscore the need for urgent action to ameliorate the hardships faced by people living on the lowest incomes.
"But they also point to more long-standing problems in the way our social security system and labor market are organized. These problems are no less deserving of our attention, and it is vital that our conversations about how to address them include the voices of people with lived experience."
While the measures announced so far by the Chancellor are welcome, families on a low-income describe them as short-term, narrowly targeted at energy costs, and failing to address the root causes of the problem.
Instead, they are calling for permanent, radical changes that directly address the problem of inadequate incomes, including:
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