Over half (53%) of social housing residents surveyed say they have used credit or a buy-now-pay-later service to cover an essential household cost such as a food shop or a bill in the last 12 months, according to the latest output from the Resident Voice Index™  (RVI) initiative.

The survey of over 5,200 social housing residents on the impact of the cost of living crisis also reveals that nearly seven in 10 respondents (68%) worry all or most of the time about meeting normal monthly living expenses.

“The survey makes it clear that households are having to make tough choices,” says Doug Sarney, Project Lead for the Resident Voice Index and Director at MRI Software.

“Alongside over half of respondents reporting that they have had to use credit or deferred payment schemes to meet essential household costs, a further 20% considered doing so. We are seeing a ticking time bomb for households on the edge of coping.”

The Resident Voice Index™ is an independent project that anonymously gathers the views of social housing residents in the UK.

Other key results of the survey include:

  • Almost nine in 10 of those under age 35 say they are using or considering using buy-now-pay-later or credit to pay for essential household costs
  • 82% of those under 35 report being worried all the time or most of the time about meeting normal monthly living expenses
  • Only 4% of all respondents say they rarely worry about money
  • Over half (56%) of all respondents didn’t know that help or support would be available to them if they faced a financial struggle
  • Almost six in 10 (58%) respondents do not feel that they have the power to influence their future financial situation

One of the most significant indicators of the challenges being faced was the use of the word ‘food’ in the free-text input from the latest Resident Voice Index™ survey.

Analysis of these answers reveals numerous examples of parents skipping meals to feed children, increased use of food banks and people eating only cold food to avoid using domestic energy.

Key quotes from survey respondents:

  • “I have tried to cut back with my food shopping and not using my heating, but it’s proving impossible. We need heat and food.”
  • “As I’m struggling now, by wintertime I won’t be able to eat.”
  • “I can’t possibly cut back on anything as I already don’t have money to spend on anything.”
  • “Life seems to be getting more and more expensive, but wages are staying the same and the level of help available is either unreachable or unheard of because not advertised.”
  • “Mainly eating cold food to cut down on electricity.”
  • “I expect my worry and concern will increase. With no scope to earn more or work a second job, with a pay rise that has disappeared to rising costs already, I know that I will be looking to shave even more off food and clothing.”

A core theme that emerges from the results is that residents feel there is nothing more to cut. Many respondents indicate that they are already living on tight budgets.

“This is not just an instance of forgoing holidays, trips out with the family or self-proclaimed luxuries,” Sarney notes.

“Instead, for a proportion of those who answered, it is applying increased pressure to already bare-bones living. For those of pension age or who are unable to work – for example, because of disability or raising children – earning more money is simply not an option.”

Sarney concludes: “We anticipated the survey results to be hard hitting. However, we were not prepared for the high levels of desperation, extreme worry and hopelessness in the responses.

“References to catastrophic mental health slides and suicide were common in the free-text input of respondents. Our hope by sharing these accounts is to inspire anyone with the ability to enact change to do so.”