Falling short: the experiences of families below the Minimum Income Standard

Katherine Hill, Abigail Davis, Donald Hirsch and Lydia Marshall

More than one in three families in the UK now have incomes below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), a benchmark based on what the public agrees a household needs as a minimum to live on.

Their incomes are reckoned to be too low to allow the choices and opportunities required to participate fully in society. This report considers how:

  • families need stability, but this is undermined by irregular employment and hours, changes in benefits and tax credits, and insecurity in private rented housing;
  • coping on a low income involves constant monitoring of budgets, hard work and discipline, and how the stress of trying to keep on top of finances is emotionally draining;
  • parents prioritise meeting their children’s needs and sacrifice their own.

The study comprised in-depth interviews with 30 families on low incomes. A mix of lone parents and couples, in and out of work, were interviewed.

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