Almost a MILLION working parents are being forced to skip meals so that they can afford to pay the rent or mortgage, shocking new figures reveal.
A survey by YouGov, on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, has revealed that more than one in ten working families are going hungry to pay housing costs, while over a third admit they have cut back on buying food.
Shelter surveyed 10,000 parents and found that 10.5% had been forced to skip meals, which is equivalent to 880,000 if they had asked every single working family in the UK.
36.7% said they had cut back on how much they spend on food and 12.9% had put off buying shoes for their children. 9.7% said they had delayed purchasing school uniforms.
Government figures show that households spend, on average, 28% of their total income on housing costs. This rises to 40% in the private rental sector.
Shelter highlights the story of Katherine and her husband who both have full-time jobs but still struggle to pay their mortgage. “My husband and I don’t have breakfast because we can’t afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three times a month to help with the mortgage”, Katherine said.
She added: “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:
“No parent should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their children’s heads. These shocking figures show that millions of us are having to make these kind of agonising choices every day.
“Sky-high housing costs and cuts to support are leaving many families trapped on a financial knife-edge.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves said: “This report provides shocking new evidence of how the Tories’ cost of living crisis is hitting hard-working families.
“While David Cameron says the economy is fixed, people who put in the hours to provide for their children are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.”
The number of calls Shelter receives related to rent arrears has more than doubled in the last three years, and the majority of people regarded as living in poverty in the UK are in work.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“Housing costs have left some families standing on a financial cliff edge. Working households that have already cut back on spending to get by could find themselves in the red if interest rates go up.
“Citizens Advice research shows 3 in 5 households are worried about the impact of rising bills this year, with over half forced to cut spending to balance the books.
“The competing pressures of sky-high childcare bills, rising energy costs and wages which are consistently below inflation, mean many people are struggling to pay for the roof over their head.
“Citizens Advice dealt with nearly 87,000 social housing rent arrears problems last year, up 10 per cent from 2012.
“It is welcome news that more people are in work, putting more households in a position to get on top of their bills. However, with record numbers of people becoming self-employed and increased numbers of jobs with uncertain hours, families face increasing instability in their income.
“An interest rate rise would put some in a more precarious position, so any rise needs to be slow and steady in order for families to manage the extra cost.”
According to the latest figures, there has been a 19% rise in cases of malnutrition in the UK over the past twelve months. Food prices have risen by 12% in seven years, while average wages have only increased by 7.6% over the same period.
Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Contrary to Shelter’s claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year.
“Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low, meaning home ownership is at its most affordable since 2007 while private rent levels are falling in real terms.”