New report reveals unmanageable debts are pushing people below a minimum acceptable living standard

Four out of five people in debt due to household bills have incomes below a minimum acceptable level, according to new analysis carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy.

The research, commissioned by national debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) looked at how debt impacts people’s living standards across the UK. Using data from more than 35,000 people over a 10-year period, the analysis looked at their risk of falling below the income they need to live with dignity and cover their basic living costs. To do this it used a benchmark established by the Minimum Income Standard (MIS).

The report shows that for those on low incomes, just trying to pay for essentials is driving them into debt: 82% of people in arrears with essential household bills had an income below the minimum level - representing around one million people across the UK. It also shows that debt repayments of just £30 a week could tip people below MIS, increasing the risk of more acute deprivation.

Juliet Stone, Research Fellow at Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy, said: “Relatively little research has been done to look at the impact that debt and debt repayments can have on poverty and people’s living standards. Our analysis shows that for households whose financial resources are already stretched, debts can result in income being pushed well below what is needed to live with dignity. This means that they haven’t got what they need to reach the Minimum Income Standard - a publicly determined benchmark, setting out a household’s minimum needs. People are having to make difficult choices about whether to meet everyday costs or keep up with debt repayments, such as arrears on basic utilities. Looking ahead, this situation seems only likely to get worse. Costs continue to increase, wage growth remains slow, and benefits are falling well short of providing a safety next, let alone enabling people to live with dignity. This year is a pivotal one for the UK and we desperately need to rethink how we support those who are most vulnerable, so they can meet their core needs - the sorts of things many of us take for granted - and feel part of the society they live in.”

Read the full report here.