By Hollie Griss, Communications and Media Officer at Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA)
Next week, GMPA will be launching new data exploring people across the country’s experiences of financial hardship over the last decade.
We have recently undertaken a survey of 2,700 UK residents to gain insight into people’s experiences of financial hardship and seeking support, and the data is worrying.
Questions asked respondents about their financial situation, if they had experienced financial difficulties and if so, how long for, and their experiences of applying for financial support (and success in getting it). We also asked what respondents would do in the event of having to pay an unexpected bill – for instance, whether they would need to go without another expense (e.g. heating) to pay it.
Further questions asked respondents’ opinions on whether they would prefer cash or in-kind support if they were faced with financial hardship, and if they think this support would be there for them.
While we will publishing the full results next week, we want to share a couple of the key findings with you today.
Across the UK, a concerning 60% believed financial support had felt ‘limited for several years’, with more than half (58%) reporting some financial struggles within the last six years.
These findings are particularly worrying as they highlight a problem greater, and much longer term, than UK households struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
Survey results have also shown that nearly one in five people across the UK had to seek support from the job centre, councils and help lines to get access to any cash benefits because the process was so ‘unclear’. Indeed, a common theme across the results is that people in financial hardship don’t know where to turn and often get sent to food banks when they actually need other types of support.
The results serve to show how important tools like the Money Advice Referral Tool (MART) are in helping people living in financial hardship identify the range of support available in their area, from benefits, Universal Credit to debt referrals. In partnership with local authority and councils, we have created and operate the MART in six out of ten boroughs across Greater Manchester.
Graham Whitham, Chief Executive of GMPA, said: “We believe that the key to tackling poverty and financial hardship is to maximise household income by ensuring people are referred and signposted to support that best meets their needs.
“With £19billion of benefits going unclaimed across the UK each year, one immediate way of tackling poverty is to ensure people access all the benefits they are entitled to. GMPA’s Money Advice Referral Tool is contributing to that, making the process of supporting people to access everything they are entitled to easier.
“Another means of supporting people is taking a cash-first approach to local welfare – giving people experiencing or at risk of financial crisis money, rather than in-kind support such as food parcels/energy vouchers.”
We’ll be launching our full survey results via email and social media next week.