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Cost of living

Staying afloat in a crisis: families on low incomes in the pandemic

This report provides a unique insight into the lives of 14 low-income families, exploring how they coped with the first six months of the coronavirus storm.

Written by:
Katherine Hill and Ruth Webber
Date published:

No family in the UK should have to experience an inadequate standard of living. It’s not right that children are growing up in households without the level of income they need, or that parents are continually struggling to make ends meet.

The pandemic brought fresh challenges to low-income families and intensified the pressure they were already under. Holding onto work and a series of temporary lifelines helped some families to weather the storm. But the additional stresses of the pandemic threatened those in already precarious situations. We need to take further action to provide the security that parents need when bringing up their families in an unstable world.

What you need to know

  • Families on low incomes who were already facing constraints and instability at the start of 2020 were more vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic, with fewer resources to fall back on.
  • Lone parents face extra pressures, depending on one income, and balancing work with childcare alone. During the pandemic, the impact of reduced earnings and extra costs was greater without the backup of a partner, and they could also receive less support from an ex-partner whose situation changed.
  • The digital divide has become even more salient during the pandemic. This affected children who were home-learning without suitable equipment or adequate online access, as well as access to online services and support for parents if they were not confident internet users.

(This report shares a joint Findings document with our other report: Seeking an anchor in an unstable world: experiences of low-income families over time).

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