Family Resources Survey: overview

The Family Resources Survey (FRS) is a large-scale annual survey of the incomes and circumstances of private households in the United Kingdom. Sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), it collects detailed information on income and benefits, savings and investments, occupation and employment, pension participation, disability, housing tenure and carers. Since 2004/05, it has included a module on material deprivation that has been derived from the concept of consensual necessities to inform the choice of indicators and, in particular, the work of the PSE 1999 study.

This inclusion of deprivation indicators in the FRS stemmed from the last Labour government’s commitment to eradicate child poverty within a generation, announced by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, in 1999. Following this announcement, the Department for Work and Pensions undertook a wide-ranging consultation exercise in 2002/03 (Measuring Child Poverty: A Consultation Document) so that progress towards this target could be monitored.

As part of this process, the DWP funded various studies (see below) to develop questions for inclusion in the FRS of indicators of deprivation based on lacking items generally considered to be essential. The main research was based on secondary analysis of:

  • Poverty and Social Exclusion (PSE), 1999.
  • Families and Children Study (FACS) (1999–2002).
  • British Household Panel Study up to wave 10 (BHPS) (1991–2001).
  • Family Resources Survey (FRS) (2001–02).

The DWP identified a relatively small set of questions for inclusion in the FRS that would capture most of the key information needed to monitor progress (see, in particular, Developing Deprivation Questions for the Family Resources Survey, Working Paper Number 13).

In 2003 the DWP published its final conclusions to the government’s consultation exercise (Measuring Child Poverty). They decided to use a tiered approach to measure poverty, which would include a measure that looked at the proportion of those on low incomes who could not afford various items considered by a majority to be essential.

From 2004/05, the Family Resources Survey was changed to incorporate the following questions on material deprivation:

Deprivation questions in the FRS from 2004/05 onwards

For each of the items below families were asked:
Do you and your family have...
Are you and your family able to afford…

Possible responses were:

  1. ‘We have this’
  2. ‘We would like to have this, but cannot afford it at the moment’
  3. ‘We do not want/need this at the moment’

Adult deprivation items

Keep your home adequately warm
Two pairs of all-weather shoes for each adult
Enough money to keep your home in a decent state of repair
A holiday away from home for one week a year, not staying with relatives
Replace any worn out furniture
A small amount of money to spend each week on yourself, not on your family
Regular savings (of £10 a month) for rainy days or retirement
Insurance of contents of dwelling
Have friends or family for a drink or meal at least once a month
A hobby or leisure activity
Replace or repair broken electrical goods such as refrigerator or washing machine

Child deprivation items

A holiday away from home at least one week a year with his or her family
Swimming at least once a month
A hobby or leisure activity
Friends round for tea or a snack once a fortnight
Enough bedrooms for every child over 10 of different sex to have his or her own bedroom
Leisure equipment (for example, sports equipment or a bicycle)
Celebrations on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas or other religious festivals
Play group/nursery/toddler group at least once a week for children of pre-school age
Going on a school trip at least once a term for school-aged children

In 2010, these measures of deprivation became part of the Child Poverty Act.

DWP deprivation research

The Department for Work and Pensions commissioned a number of studies aimed at improving and developing material deprivation indicators for inclusion in the FRS. These include:

Tweet this page