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Families need a third more income to make ends meet

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Low income families hit by crippling costs of living need a third more income than a decade ago to make ends meet, a study has said. 

They face bigger barriers to meet rising costs – despite tightening their belts and shopping around online for better deals and tariffs, the study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said.

It said families with two working parents need to earn at least £40,000 a year to achieve a decent minimum living standard, a single person needs to earn £18,400 and a lone parent with a pre-school child must earn £28,450.

Since 2008, the cost of a minimum ‘basket’ of goods and services has risen by 35% for a single working-age adult without children, by 30% for a couple with two children and by 50% for a pensioner couple, compared to a 25% increase in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

Transport costs now take up nearly a fifth of minimum household budgets, the report said. Bus travel is 65% more expensive in 2018 than in 2008.

On average the cost of food has risen by just over a quarter between 2008 and 2018, and energy bills are over 40% higher than a decade ago.

Childcare costs have risen sharply. The average price of a full-time nursery place for a two-year-old is now £229 a week, having risen by well over 50% since 2008.

But on the flip side, people are spending less on technology but are more connected than in 2008. Broadband, a basic laptop and smartphone cost £8 a week today for a single working-age person, compared to £9.50 for a landline telephone and a pay-as-you-go mobile in 2008, despite inflation of 25%.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Some working parents are actually further away from reaching a decent living standard because tax credits to top up low wages have been falling at a time when families need them most. The government must put things right by allowing families to keep more of their earnings. This would ease the constraints the crippling cost of living places on their ability to build a better life and ensure everyone can reach a decent standard of living.”