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One in three working families only one paycheque away from losing their home

Posted 09 Aug 2016

One in three working families in England could not afford to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job, new figures from Shelter reveal today.

With little or no personal savings to fall back on, the Shelter and YouGov study found that this means a staggering three million working families could be just one paycheque away from losing their home.

Even more shockingly, the research also revealed that a fifth of working parents face the nightmare prospect of being immediately unable to make their next rent or mortgage payment if they lost their job, and couldn’t get another one straightaway.

These worrying findings mirror recent government figures, which show there are 16.5 million working age adults in the UK with no savings at all.

As the country faces a period of economic uncertainty, Shelter is urging the new government to do all it can to protect and improve the welfare safety net that helps families to stay in their home when they fall on hard times.

High housing costs remain a major area of concern for most working families, with almost half saying housing puts the biggest strain on their household budget.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “These figures are stark a reminder that sky-high housing costs are leaving millions of working families stretched to breaking point, and barely scraping by from one paycheque to the next.

“Any one of us could hit a bump along life’s road, and at Shelter we speak to parents every day who, after losing their job or seeing their hours cut, are terrified of losing the roof over their children’s heads too.

“In these uncertain times, the new government has a real chance to show working families they’re on their side, by protecting and improving our welfare safety net. It’s vital that if life does takes a turn for the worse, there’s enough support available for families so that they don’t go hurtling towards homelessness.”

Case study: Lou and her two children began to struggle financially after Lou separated from her partner a couple of years ago. Even though Lou works full-time as a complex needs carer, and has moved into a small flat, she still finds keeping up with the rent every month a struggle.

“I couldn’t afford to buy my son a proper birthday present this year. I felt awful about it but I don’t think you should hide everything from your children. You don’t want to expose them to too much, but at the same time if you simply can’t afford things you have to explain that to them.

“I’m working hard, but it still makes me feel like a failure. I recently changed jobs and hit a rough patch when I thought I wouldn’t be able to pay the rent. An employer had given me some work and didn’t tell me that my hours wouldn’t be guaranteed, I lost a chunk of my income all of a sudden, and very nearly lost my home. It was really scary.

“There’s never a cushion. You’d think if you were working you’d be able to save a little bit every month, but it’s just not a possibility when just paying for the basics is so expensive.”

Anyone who is worried about losing their home can contact Shelter for free, expert advice. Visit or call the Shelter helpline on 0808 800 4444.

Notes to editors:

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 8,381 adults, of which, 1,581 were families with children who work. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th – 22nd July 2016.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

  • The ‘one paycheque’ refers to a salary paid monthly. 37% of working families surveyed said they would be unable to cover their housing costs for more than one month, if they or their partner lost their job. 23% of working families said that they would be unable to pay their housing costs at all. 48% of working families said that the cost of housing places the greatest financial strain on their budget.

  • The estimates of number of families affected have been calculated by Shelter. These estimates are based on the number of families with dependent children where at least one adult works. This is from the Census 2011 published by the Office of National Statistics. This indicates that there are 8,424,182 working families in England. The proportion of working families from the YouGov sample is taken as a percentage of the ONS number.

  • Respondents were asked: Please imagine that you were to lose your job in July 2016 and were NOT able to secure another one right away…Approximately how long, if at all, do you think you could afford to pay your rent or mortgage from your savings for?

  • Government data shows that 16.5 million (43%) working age adults have no savings. This is from the Family resources survey 2014/15, published in Households below average income Table 5.9db, DWP, June 2016. Available here.