26 Aug 2022 | Posted In Money advice news

Changing Lives, a national charity, supporting thousands of people in the most challenging of circumstances, has published a report entitled ‘Priced Out’ on the impact of the rising cost of living on people with multiple unmet needs.

The report’s key findings are:

  • The rising cost of living has had a devastating impact on people with existing vulnerabilities, many
    of whom were already deeply affected by experiences of poverty and disadvantage.
  • Over 80% of Changing Lives’ services have seen an increase in the number of people who are no longer able
    to make ends meet. Experiences of food poverty and hunger are becoming commonplace, and a
    growing number of people are at risk of eviction.
  • Over 75% of Changing Lives’ services have seen an increase in the number of people incurring unsustainable
    levels of debt, including reliance on perilous forms of lending such as loan sharks and sources of
    high-cost credit.
  • Young people aged under 25 are among the most affected, primarily because they receive lower
    levels of support through the benefits system. By the end of 2022, Changing Lives estimates that a young person
    living in self-contained supported accommodation will be faced with a deficit of almost £150 per
    month after paying for food and utilities.
  • The vast majority (90%) of Changing Lives’ services said they are seeing more people with experiences of poor
    mental and physical health, including self-harm, loneliness and harmful substance use.
  • A further two-thirds are seeing a greater number of people at increased risk of abuse and
    exploitation, including domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and modern slavery. Of these, 75% of
    Changing Lives services said the rising cost of living has resulted in a reduction in contact with their children.
  • It is becoming ever more difficult to help people move on from homelessness services because it
    is simply unaffordable for them to live independently. In some cases, the people we support are
    faced with the prospect of living with a deficit of almost £200 per month in private rented
  • Changing Lives’ services estimate that almost 50% of people in its services have struggled to access financial
    support with the rising cost of living, and almost all are being pushed further into poverty through
    an inadequate welfare system and limited routes to employment.

Changing Lives’ recommendations for addressing these issues are:

  • Welfare: While Changing Lives welcomes the support package introduced by government to support people with
    the rising cost of living, discretionary funding is not an effective substitute for changes to the
    ongoing funding through benefits that people need to get by. Changing Lives is calling for wide-ranging
    changes to the benefits system, including uprating Universal Credit in line with inflation and
    increasing rates for people under 25 to the same level as those 25 or over, an increase in the
    benefits cap, temporary pause on Universal Credit deductions, and the replacement of advance
    payments for Universal Credit with a non-repayable grant.
  • Housing: A safe, secure home is the foundation of a flourishing life, but for many people this is
    being placed under threat by the rising cost of living. Changing Lives says we need to see a fundamental shift in our
    housing system by investing in 3.1 million new social homes over the next 20 years, increasing the
    Local Housing Allowance to 50% of market rates, and introducing a transitional period to enable
    people who secure employment while living in supported accommodation to find a place to live
    before their housing benefit entitlement is removed.
  • Employment: The people Changing Lives supports have the potential to make a significant contribution to the
    workplace, but often need additional, intensive, holistic support to access and sustain
    employment. Changing Lives wants to see routes to employment for people who have existing vulnerabilities
    reflected in opportunities through the levelling up agenda, and for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund
    to be targeted towards supporting people who face multiple barriers to work.
  • Financial inclusion: Many of the people Changing Lives supports have struggled to access
    financial support to help them with the rising cost of living, and systems for providing emergency
    welfare support are piecemeal and fragmented. Changing Lives would like to see ringfenced funding for people
    exiting homelessness services through the Household Support Fund, local authorities resourced
    to administer the Household Support Fund effectively as part of a joined-up approach to crisis
    welfare assistance, free and/or discounted travel for people in receipt of benefits, and increased
    provision of financial support and advice to allow services to respond to increasing demand.
  • Funding for public services: The voluntary sector plays an essential frontline role in supporting
    people when times are tough. Changing Lives is calling for increased funding for commissioned public
    services, including voluntary sector providers, to support people at a time of increasing demand
    for services and growing complexity of need.

Read the full report here.