A damning new survey of ‘Quids in!’ readers reveals ongoing financial hardship among social housing tenants, as money worries leave some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society “hungry and cold”.
The survey, sponsored by Aviva and Mears and released by the Social Publishing Project, provides a snapshot into how Tory austerity has impacted on social housing tenants – who may be affected by Universal Credit – over the last five years.
It found that among working age tenants not in full-time employment, 44% skipped meals over the last year, while more than half (51%) were forced to turn off heating despite feeling cold.
The survey also shows how money worries can have a detrimental impact on health and well-being, with 58% of those surveyed feeling frightened, anxious or depressed. Worryingly, more than one in four (28%) said they had felt physically ill over the last year.
The research draws into question the financial capability of tenants to cope with Universal Credit, which is replacing a number of existing social security benefits with a single monthly payment. It also gathered data on IT skills, access to banking services, existing levels of debt and arrears, and general money management skills.
63% of those surveyed did not save for unexpected expenses and just 17% use a savings account, but may be expected to wait a minimum of six-weeks before receiving their first Universal Credit payment.
Figures from Trussell Trust show the nationwide charity provided more than 1.1 million three-day emergency food supplies in 2015-16, with benefit delays cited as the primary reason people need to turn to food banks.
Quids in! editor Jeff Mitchell said: “When people go hungry and cold because they’re worried about the bills, of course physical illness or mental anxiety will follow.
“This group is the same as the one that will move onto Universal Credit over the coming years and the idea they can cope with a minimum six-week wait is a fantasy.
“Austerity must be reconsidered as the worst off are sitting on a timebomb it’s just a question of whether their health or finances will be ruined first.”
However, the survey did show a slight improvement on 2014 figures. More tenants appeared to be managing debts and bills, but were generally in a worse position than in 2012.
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This article was last updated at 03:43 on Tuesday 25 October 2016 to correct an editing error.