“Scraping the Barrel” – The Cost of Living for Social Housing Residents, Full Report

Service providers helping those on a low income, are consistently missing opportunities to cut poverty and problem debt.

Our full research report, “Scraping the Barrel” – The Cost of Living For Social Housing Residents, details how housing associations, local authorities and other service providers are too focused on addressing immediate need and emergency provision, leading to increased social service costs and worsening outcomes for those living on the breadline.

The report:

  • Finds that specific problems are repeatedly pushing people into poverty, including flashpoint expenditure, transitions between payment schedules, and gradual declines in purchasing power
  • Finds that service provision is largely focused on those in crisis, rather than preventing crisis, or supporting those recovering from crisis
  • Concludes that agile and user-centred design methods help make poverty intervention services more effective

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In our full report we offer a series of recommendations for how to design effective services that offer preventative, rather than reactive, solutions to poverty. This includes integrating current understanding on tangential learning, incentives, and gamification into poverty prevention services.

There are already some excellent solutions in place for when people fall on hard times, but sadly these services are inundated in the social housing and public sectors. Housing associations and local authorities are struggling to cope with demand for their in-poverty services, whilst people living on the breadline are ignored until they succumb to the poverty trap.

It’s not right that support only reaches vulnerable people after they’ve fallen on hard times.

Housing associations and local authorities need to better understand what pushes people into poverty, and what makes some intervention services work better than others. By changing the way we design intervention services, the ongoing growth of those on a low income falling into poverty can be reversed.

The report builds on our earlier research, which suggested that the vast majority of social housing tenants are struggling financially. A survey of over 1,200 social housing residents found that:

Infographic Main FindingsOur report adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that services are failing to prevent the spread of poverty amongst low income households.

Over 20 million people are now living in poverty in the UK, whilst research from the Citizens Advice Bureau suggests that systemic problems in the consumer credit market are pushing young and vulnerable people further into debt.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. With better and more informed service design, housing associations and local authorities can provide more effective interventions that prevent poverty and problem debt, rather than merely responding to it. Our report lays out a framework for how to do that.


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