9 July 2012
Last updated at 17:20 ET
Researchers questioned 21 focus group to find the income standard
A couple with two children now need to earn £36,800 a year to have a “socially acceptable” standard of living, an anti-poverty charity says.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said its annual minimum income study suggests families must earn a third more than in 2008, to live within social norms.
Rising childcare and transport costs, combined with cuts to benefits, have hit families hard, it added.
The government said it was committed to helping the UK’s “most vulnerable”.
The minimum income standard (MIS) study – commissioned by the charity from the social policy research unit at Loughborough University – suggests a rising number of UK people live below what the public believes is an acceptable standard of living.
This MIS standard includes earning enough to eat a balanced diet, running a car and heating the home.
Researchers questioned 21 focus groups made up of working families, pensioners and single people of working age.
A couple with two children were said to need to earn a minimum of £18,400 a year each before tax; single people £16,400 a year, while the figure for lone parent with one child is £23,900 and a pensioner couple £12,000 each.
The study said families are being hit hard by a “dangerous cocktail” of rising costs and cuts in three main areas:
- Childcare: Minimum costs have risen by nearly a third since 2008
- Travel: Bus fares have doubled since the late 1990s which when combined with cuts to public transport, means families with children now deem a car as an essential item
- Benefit cuts have increased earning requirements substantially, cancelling out the benefit of higher income tax thresholds
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What makes up the MIS?
Minimum weekly spend on some “socially acceptable” life essentials includes:
Household goods and services: Childcare: £147.85, beds and bedding: £3.29, garden equipment: £0.66
Food and drink: Meat £18.08, vegetables: £11.27, snacks: £3.65
Social and cultural: Parent social activities: £30.00, UK holiday: £18.52, birthday gifts: £8.42
Transport: Car: £60.25, public transport: £12.38, Cycling: £1.40
Based on a couple with two young children with a weekly income of £685
JRF chief executive Julia Unwin said families faced a “monumental task” to earn enough to get by.
“Parents facing low wages and pressure on their working time have little prospect of finding the extra money they need to meet growing household expenses.
“Many working people face the risk of sliding into poverty. It illustrates how anti-poverty measures are needed to address not just people’s incomes but also the costs that they face.”
The research also states that the level of Universal Credit – the government’s new benefits system being brought in January 2013 – will strongly influence the ability of households to reach MIS.
The charity’s findings have been backed by Oxfam director of UK poverty Chris Johnes who said: “Yet again we are seeing evidence of working families being hit hardest by a perfect storm of soaring living costs and cuts to services and crucial support, like working tax credits.
“Millions of families are struggling to get by on dwindling incomes and even when both parents work full time they each need to earn 50% above the minimum wage, in order to provide a decent standard of living for their kids.”
The government said it was forced to make “tough choices to repair the country’s finances”.
A spokesperson said: “It is vital that we give young children the best start in life and that is why we are rolling out free early education, backed by more than £1bn, to help children and their parents.
“We recognise that child care costs are an issue and that is why the prime minister launched a commission into this matter which will report back in the autumn.
“We are also introducing Universal Credit from 2013, which will simplify the system and ensure that work pays.”