Don’t earn enough to eat?
Our good friends over at Which! Have been surveying people again, and the news is not great. Far from the improving position politicians would have us believe, Which!’s latest Consumer Insight Tracker estimates that 1 in 5 of us, that’s 5 million people, are using borrowed money or savings to pay for food.
Although these are largely low-income households, with 45% of this group earning £21,000 or less (against the national average household income of £37,000), the most affected age group is the 30-49 year olds. Sixty-three percent of families unable to meet their food bill have children.
Which! executive director Richard Lloyd said:
“Our tracker shows that many households are stretched to their financial breaking point, with rising food prices one of the top worries for squeezed consumers. It’s simply shocking that so many people need to use savings or credit to pay for essentials like food.”
Part of the reason for the struggle is that income (and benefits) have failed to keep pace with inflation. Food prices have increased by an even greater sum; Which! Researchers calculate the average wekly food bill is now around £76, a 4% increase from last year. If you are facing a 1% pay rise, or a pay freeze, that extra cost has to be met from somewhere.
Of the people who have had to borrow or dip into savings just to eat:
82% were worried about food prices with 55% saying they would have to cut back food spending in the next few months
57% said they were struggling on their income with 32% borrowing from family and friends in April
With council cuts also starting to bite, some local authorities are turning to the voluntary sector to provide food for residents hit by cuts. Birmingham City Council’s Cllr John Cotton told the Guardian that the cuts were immoral and that councils were doing what they could to help people:
“It's back to the 1930s. Here we are, mapping out foodbanks. It's actually immoral, but we have to support people and help them.”
Overall, the number of people surveyed by Which! who describe themselves as ‘squeezed’ is up to 36%. That's 9 million people.
A government spokesman said nine out of 10 working households would be better off as a result of last month's changes to the tax and benefit system - with the average working household better off by more than £300 a year.
Guess the other 10% of workers and anyone not working can starve then.