National Survey sheds light on Welsh population’s money matters

Last week, the results from the latest National Survey for Wales (covering April 2014 – March 2015) were published. There were a number of aspects of the results that are of particular relevance to the work we are doing in Your Money, Your Home (YMYH) to combat financial exclusion in Wales. These are related to personal finance and poverty, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on them and what they mean for our work.

Personal finance

The focus of our project is ensuring that people are able to manage their personal finances effectively, in order to prevent the risk of them becoming homeless. The stats around personal finance were therefore of great interest to me. They focussed on household bills and financial commitments, and when asked whether people had any difficulties in paying bills and repaying loans:

  • 60% of people said they had no difficulties keeping up with their bills and financial commitments
  • 25% said it was a struggle from time to time
  • 8% said it was constant struggle
  • 2% said they were falling behind with some bills and credit commitments
  • 1% said they had real financial problems, having fallen behind with many bills
  • 3% said they didn’t have any bills.

The proportion of people in Wales keeping up with their bills without difficulty has increased dramatically from the previous two year’s results (where the figure stood at 48% in 2012/13 and 50% last year). Whilst in itself this is a positive increase, and could well indicate that years of financial inclusion work is starting to pay off, there is still a long way to go. Our own statistics from YMYH suggest that over 67% of private rented sector tenants we’ve engaged with to date have struggled to pay household bills in the past 12 months. This reflects a similar trend recognised by Citizens Advice, where they are seeing, proportionally, a greater level of household bill debt issues than consumer debt issues.

Poverty/Material deprivation

The survey asked questions on material deprivation (whether a household is able to afford things like keeping the house warm enough, make regular savings, or have a holiday once a year). Material deprivation questions can act as a reliable indicator of poverty as they are designed to capture the consequences of long term poverty on households, rather than short-term financial strain. Key figures included:

  • 45% of people who live in social housing were materially deprived. This compares with 33% of people in private rented accommodation and 11% of owner-occupiers
  • People in their 30s were the age group that were most likely to be materially deprived
  • 28% of people aged 30 to 39 were materially deprived, compared with 8% of people aged 70 or over
  • People with higher levels of qualifications were less likely to be materially deprived (11%) when compared with people who did not have any qualifications (28%)
  • 40% of people who live in a household where no-one of working age was working were materially deprived, compared with 15% who live in a household where everyone of working age worked.

Initial analysis shows that people who are in material deprivation, compared with people who aren’t, are less likely to be healthy, be satisfied with their lives,  feel in control of their daily lives, feel as though they’re treated with respect, and feel safe or valued in society. They were also more likely to feel lonely and anxious. Sadly, for many of the tenants we are working with this is a truer refection of the challenges they face.

We know that debt can have a serious impact on a person’s health and wellbeing, but it has wider reaching consequences on that person’s family and social networks, and can impact on the communities they live in. Moving people into work is one key part of getting people out of poverty, but work has to pay a sustainable amount. In Wales, research shows that half of people in poverty live in working households. So we need to ensure the jobs which are being created are sustainable, pay at least the living wage and are not temporary or zero-hour contracts. Our own work here at the Wales Co-operative Centre, supporting social business, has created 394 jobs in social enterprises across Wales.  Improving educational attainment is another potential route out of poverty, but again there is a fine balance between nurturing aspirations, and the skills needed for the current and future labour markets.

 

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