Six out of ten working families struggling with their rent or mortgage

Charity warns that England could become a ‘knife-edge nation’

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The Independent Online

Housing charity Shelter is warning that the introduction of the new Universal Credit rules next month could see England become a ‘knife-edge nation’ where redundancy could also mean losing your home.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Shelter suggests that six in ten working families are already struggling or falling behind with their rent or mortgage. Previous research from the charity indicated that over a third of workers would be unable to pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job.

It names Manchester, Norwich, East London and Bristol as areas which could be hit hardest because of their high housing costs, high rates of new unemployment claims and large numbers of rented homes.

The changes in October - to include a reduction in the help available to renters during the first three months after they lose their job - will mean that a family paying a typical rent on an average three bedroom home would need to find an extra £100 a month or more in over a quarter of the country as soon as they became unemployed. Nearly two in five renters in the poll said that they would be unable to find any extra money at all.

Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said: "This research highlights the frightening reality that as support continues to be cut, losing your job is increasingly likely to mean losing your home. The high cost of housing, rising living costs, and job insecurity are already making it incredibly tough for ordinary families to survive. Just one thing, like an illness or redundancy, can be all it takes to tip a family into a downward spiral that puts their home at risk.

"We want the government to keep the support available to families who face losing their homes. Finding another job is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible to get back on your feet."

Earlier this week, a study by social landlords across the north of England argued that people’s mental health is suffering and families fear slipping further into debt as they struggle to cope with changes to the benefits system. It showed that households are planning to cut back on spending on food and fuel, while some are left with less than £10 a week to live on, following the introduction of Government welfare reforms last April.