Benefits reforms ‘cut food budgets to £20 a week’

Poor households are cutting food costs in an attempt to cope with the effects of rising fuel bills, shrinking incomes and benefits changes such as the 'bedroom tax', according to the latest instalment of a survey looking at the impact of coalition government policies.

The 'Real Life Reform' project is tracking the impact of benefits reform on up to 100 households in social housing across the north of England through to 2015. This is the second of six scheduled reports on how the households are responding to the changes. 

Key findings

  • A third of the households say they now spend less than £20 a week on food, partly to cope with spiralling gas and electricity bills. This is up from a quarter since the previous report in September.
  • The households spent an average of £2.10 a person each day on groceries, having cut their daily food budget drastically (from £3.27) since the summer of 2013.
  • Households are spending 16 per cent more on gas and electricity.
  • Households needing to make debt repayments of more than £40 a week have doubled. The average level of debt per household is £2,273.
  • More than half say they have no money left once bills are paid.
  • There are no signs yet that benefits reform has helped jobless tenants to find work or an increase in working hours, despite a rise in the percentage of participants searching for work. Households voiced increasing criticism of support received to help people access employment.
  • 83 per cent of households think benefits reform will have an adverse impact on their health and well-being.
  • 86 per cent think benefits reform will adversely affect shops and businesses in their neighbourhood – up from 68 per cent.

SourceReal Life Reform: Report 2, Northern Housing Consortium, York University, and seven other organisations
LinkReport  | Guardian report | Inside Housing report

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Publication date: 
Dec 10 2013