residents associations in the uk

working together to create communities with a heart

Life on a low income


One in four of the British population five in homes with less than half the average disposable income, A special report by Elaine Kempson of the Policy Studies Institute looks behind the income and wealth statistics and draws on 31 recent research studies to explore what life on a low was like in the 1990s. It concluded that: 


  • People who live on low incomes are not an underclass with different attitudes and values to the rest of society. They aspire to a job, a decent home and an income that will cover their outgoings with a little to spare.


  • Most are resourceful in trying to make ends meet, but those living on the lowest incomes including social security benefits face invidious choices between cutting back on essentials or falling into debt.


  • An additional £15 a week would greatly improve the ability of people on very low incomes to cope. Had the link between earnings and the indexation of social security payments not been broken in the early 1980s, many of today's claimants would have the extra money they need to avoid real hardship.


  • Low-income households frequently fall behind with basic household bite such as rent, mortgage, gas, electricity, water and Council Tax.  Most people feel ashamed of their debts, but their situation is one of 'can’t pay' rather than 'won't pay'.


Chronic financial difficulties place strains on low-income households that often prove damaging to mental and physical health and to family relationships.

  •  Parents are determined to provide the best food and clothing that they can for their children, even when it means going without themselves, women, who normally manage family budgets, adopt such strategies as frequent shopping to minimise food stocks at home and shopping without children or partners to avoid pressure to spend more.


  • Finding a job is the only way that most people on benefits believe they can secure an adequate income. Yet individuals often alternate between unemployment and low-paid work in a way that offers no real escape from life on a low income.

For more information click below ...

Social Policy Research 97 - June 1998

RAUK is a Good Services Bureau Project.  We invite you to join the Good Services Bureau so that we can support you better and you can support each other.  We understand you or your RA may not be in any position to do so at this time, but please consider making a small donation towards our work. Thank you


HELP DESK

We can't promise to fix all of your problems, but we can promise you won't have to face them alone


Can you spare an hour or two each week to help us with research for our work?  If so, please click here

This site was updated on
2nd May 2018


Please report any broken links through our Help Desk

Thank you