A third of working families on low incomes are regularly skipping meals to save cash, while almost half have gone into arrears on household bills.
These are the findings of research undertaken by the Living Wage Foundation, an organisation that campaigns for fair pay for workers.
The survey also found that 29% had fallen behind on their rent or mortgage and that 37% had used credit cards and loans to top up their income. More than one in five (22%) had used pay day loans to pay for regular expenses.
Almost a third (30%) would walk because they couldn’t afford transport costs and 55% had to turn down social invitations because they could not afford to go.
The Living Wage Foundation claims there is still a sizeable gap between what the government’s national living wage and the real living wage that it promotes. The national living wage is currently £7.83 an hour, but the Living Wage Foundation says workers need to be paid at least £8.75 an hour to have a decent standard of living.
Tess Lanning, director of the Living Wage Foundation, says:“These findings reveal the desperate choices low-paid families have to make and show why it’s so important that more employers take a stand by paying the real Living Wage, based on what they need to live, not just the government minimum.”
The Living Wage Foundation’s research comes at the same time as Citizen’s Advice reveals that 140,000 households are forgoing gas and electricity because they cannot afford to top up their prepayment meters. Citizen’s Advice says that the majority of these households include children and people in poor health.
The charity is particularly concerned that of those people who self-disconnected – only 9% contacted their energy supplier to discuss the matter. In some cases, firms will have access to discretionary credit, preventing the most vulnerable families living in cold, dark homes.
Citizen’s Advice is calling on the government and suppliers to do more to identify and support at risk households.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, says: “It unacceptable that so many vulnerable households are being left without heat and light.
“For some people self-disconnection is easily managed, but for many others it is an extremely stressful experience that can have harmful physical and emotional effects.
“While some suppliers are now offering support to prepayment meter customers, industry and the Government need to do more. We need better mechanisms to identify vulnerable customers, better coordination between suppliers and government agencies and we need suppliers to ensure that when people’s health is at risk alternative ways to pay are offered.”