Cost of living nightmare: Millions trapped in 'relentless hardship' as politicians urged to take action

Woman looking sad and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Politicians are being urged to tackle the ongoing cost of living crisis more effectively

Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell

Published: 30/05/2024

- 14:04

Updated: 30/05/2024

- 19:02

The UK's cost of living woes are continuing to hurt low-income families despite inflation falling last month

Millions of Britons have been left without essentials amid the cost of living crisis and politicians need to more to address this "relentless hardship", according to one of the country's leading think tanks.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is sounding the alarm over the ongoing impact of high interest rates, inflation and energy bills on peoples' finances which has seen over five million low-income families forced to skip meals.

New figures have revealed the number of low-income households who are going without essentials, including food, appropriate clothing and a heated home has not dropped below seven million since May 2022.

The think tank is urging Labour and the Conservatives to outline how they plan to address this ongoing hardship with Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Rishi Sunak only just beginning to unveil policy ahead of July 4's General Election.

According to JRF, the lowest 20 per cent of low-income households are experiencing levels of hardship that have not improved since the same period last year.

This is despite some improvements in the economy, such inflation easing to 2.3 per cent, but interest rates have remained at 5.25 per cent since August 2023.

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Man looking tat bills

Inflation, interest rates and energy bills have all been issues Britons have been forced to contend with in recent years


Research from the Foundation highlighted that five million low-income families took fewer showers or baths as a result of the cost of living in order to save money.

In order to make ends meet, 4.9 million households did not replace work out or outgrown clothes and 3.7 million chose to sell their belongings.

Some 1.6 million low-income families turned off their fridge freezer to cut costs, while 6.8 million lowered their usage of all electronic appliances.

Notably, 7.2 million homes have been heated less in response to the rise in the cost of living.

This has happened during a time of unprecedently high energy bills which are expected to rise once again later this year.

To tackle poverty in the UK, the JRF is suggesting policymakers should find ways to improve the current benefits system provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Despite this, 86 per cent of low-income households who received Universal Credit were going without the essentials in May this year.

Earlier this year, Sunak pledged to clamp down on benefits fraud by introducing further sanctions on claimants receiving support.

Notably, both parties have promised to keep the two-child benefit cap on DWP payments which experts claim, if scrapped, could pull 250,000 children out of poverty.

Rachelle Earwaker, a senior economist at JRF, urged Labour and the Tories to understand the cost of living crisis is not over for millions of families across the country.


Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak are being called to help low-income families


She explained: "The number of low-income families in our country who’ve been forced to choose which essentials to go without because they can’t afford them hasn’t fallen below seven million since May 2022.

"Despite inflation falling there has been no let up for the poorest families, who are just as likely to be going without food as last year.”

“We need our politicians to set out how they will bring an end to this relentless reality of hardship in the general election campaign.

"Political leaders need to tell us what they will do straight away to help families who can’t afford life’s essentials, as well as their long-term plans to tackle poverty.”

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