Belfast Telegraph

Housing fears as millions of working families 'stretched to breaking point'

Cash-strapped working families in England are so "stretched to breaking point" that one in three could not afford to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job, according to new figures.

The high cost of housing added to having little or no personal savings to fall back on, and means that three million working families could be just one pay cheque away from losing their home, the Shelter and YouGov study found.

The figures come from a July 2016 poll of 8,381 adults which included 1,581 working families with children. They were asked how long, if at all, did they think they could afford to pay their rent or mortgage from their savings if they lost their job and could not find work?

This nightmarish prospect would leave 37% of families unable to cover their housing costs for more than one month, while 23% of working families said they would be unable to pay their housing costs at all.

Some 48% of families named the cost of housing as the biggest drain on their budget.

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: "These figures are a stark reminder that sky-high housing costs are leaving millions of working families stretched to breaking point, and barely scraping by from one pay cheque to the next.

"Any one of us could hit a bump along life's road, and at Shelter we speak to parents every day who, after losing their job or seeing their hours cut, are terrified of losing the roof over their children's heads too.

"In these uncertain times, the new Government has a real chance to show working families they're on their side, by protecting and improving our welfare safety net. It's vital that if life does takes a turn for the worse, there's enough support available for families so that they don't go hurtling towards homelessness."

A single mother of two children, named only as Lou, told researchers that although she is working full-time as a complex needs carer, and has moved into a small flat, she still finds keeping up with the rent every month a struggle.

She said: "I'm working hard, but it still makes me feel like a failure. I recently changed jobs and hit a rough patch when I thought I wouldn't be able to pay the rent. An employer had given me some work and didn't tell me that my hours wouldn't be guaranteed, I lost a chunk of my income all of a sudden, and very nearly lost my home. It was really scary.

"There's never a cushion. You'd think if you were working you'd be able to save a little bit every month, but it's just not a possibility when just paying for the basics is so expensive."

A Government spokesman said: " We are introducing the National Living Wage, increasing the personal tax allowance and giving the next generation choice and flexibility in their savings, including the Help to Save scheme for people on low incomes.

"We are continuing to spend around £90 billion a year on working age benefits to ensure a strong safety net for the most vulnerable.

"And for those who do fall on difficult times, there are strong protections in place to guard against the threat of homelessness, and ensure we don't return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today."