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27 June, 2024 Open access

Election 2024: Almost 9 in 10 low-income families on universal credit went without essentials in May 2024

JRF highlights that the number of families going without has not changed over the last year despite the 10.1 per cent benefit uprating in April 2023 and £900 cost of living payment

Almost 9 in 10 low-income families on universal credit went without essentials in May 2024, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

In a new pre-election Cost of Living Tracker - the sixth in a series of large-scale surveys of more than 4,000 households on low incomes (the bottom 40 per cent) - the JRF highlights that the number of low-income households going without essentials (such as food, showers, and heating as modelled to match the items in the JRF and Trussell Trust Essentials Guarantee basket) is ‘wholly unacceptable’, having remained at or above 7 million (60 per cent) for the last two years.

Among the JRF’s other key findings are that -

In addition, while the JRF says that there has been improvement for some groups across key hardship indicators compared to its last survey in October 2023, it highlights that there has been no change in the proportion of lowest-income families and those on universal credit going without essentials -

Looking ahead, to what the next government can do to tackle the hardship shown by these figures, the JRF says -

'This briefing has set out the reality currently facing low-income households which the new Government will inherit. While there are some promising signs with fewer low-income households going without the essentials, in arrears or debt, this is only 1 data point and there is much further to go. This is particularly the case for families on the lowest incomes who have yet to see any reprieve from the cost of living crisis, and tackling hardship for this group must be an urgent priority for any incoming Government.’

Commenting on the findings, JRF chief executive Paul Kissack said today -

'It is astonishing that with 7 million households going without essentials and record numbers of emergency food parcels being provided neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer are offering any practical measures to tackle this hardship with the urgency required. Addressing this emergency will need to be right at the top of the Prime Minister’s 'to-do list' after the election.'

NB - Mr Kissack is also one of more than 200 signatories to a letter from anti-poverty organisations - including the Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice, Crisis, Age UK, Barnardo's, Mencap, Scope, and the Mental Health Foundation - that addresses the next Prime Minister, saying -

'... it is clear [the public] want to see action and commitments to turn this situation around so that no one is forced to go without the essentials or need a food bank to survive.'

For more information, see The scale of the challenge: JRF's pre-election cost of living tracker.