De­cent life: min­i­mum in­come stan­dard

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - STEVE DOUGHTY

ACOUPLE with two chil­dren need to spend more than £40 000 (R700 000) a year to reach a de­cent stan­dard of liv­ing, ac­cord­ing to a new study in the UK.

The re­search shows that fam­i­lies where both par­ents work have ben­e­fited most over the past year, as they strive to reach what a poverty re­search group calls the min­i­mum in­come stan­dard.

The Joseph Rown­tree Foun­da­tion sets this as the min­i­mum needed for a de­cent life and is higher than the more com­monly used poverty line, which is set at 60% of av­er­age in­come. It may in­clude ben­e­fits such as uni­ver­sal credit or tax credit.

Changes to the ben­e­fit sys­tem means that sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies have slipped down the liv­ing stan­dards’ ta­ble over the past year, said the foun­da­tion. But the group that has lost out most over the past 12 months are tra­di­tional fam­i­lies with one bread­win­ner.

The foun­da­tion cal­cu­lates its min­i­mum in­come us­ing fo­cus groups to es­ti­mate what people need not just for food, hous­ing and cloth­ing, but to have “op­por­tu­ni­ties and choices”.

Weekly costs for a cou­ple with two chil­dren who meet the stan­dard, the re­port said, should in­clude £235 (R4 000) for child care, £60 (R1 000) to run a car and £95 (R1 600) for so­cial and cul­tural par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in­cludes ev­ery­thing needed for a so­cial life – from at­tend­ing clubs and gath­er­ings each week to buy­ing Christ­mas presents.

The re­port said the cost of pro­vid­ing the min­i­mum stan­dard has gone up over the past year by be­tween 3% and 4%, with costs slightly dif­fer­ent for each type of fam­ily or house­hold.

It put the amount needed to meet a min­i­mum stan­dard at £17 900 (R304 300) for a sin­gle per­son, and £20 400 (R346 800) each for a work­ing cou­ple with two chil­dren, bring­ing the re­quired joint in­come over the £40 000 (R680 000) mark for the first time; and £25 900 (R440 300) for a lone par­ent with a pre-school child.

Ac­cord­ing to the Rown­tree cal­cu­la­tions, two par­ents earn­ing the na­tional liv­ing wage of £7.50 (R127) an hour would be £59 (R1 000) a week short of its in­come stan­dard. They have, how­ever, done bet­ter over the past year than other fam­i­lies be­cause of the ris­ing level of the na­tional min­i­mum wage.

A sin­gle par­ent earn­ing the na­tional liv­ing wage, the es­ti­mates say, is now £67 (R1 140) a week below the stan­dard, while a fam­ily with one bread­win­ner on a min­i­mum wage pay packet is £120 (R2 040) below the stan­dard.

The re­port said the new uni­ver­sal credit ben­e­fit, de­signed to en­cour­age claimants to find jobs, has helped work­ing cou­ples, “es­pe­cially if they have child­care costs”. They have also ben­e­fited from rises in the na­tional liv­ing wage.

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