Families ‘one pay packet away from losing home’

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Almost four million families with children would be just one pay cheque away from losing their home if they lost their job, homeless charity Shelter has warned.

A survey for the charity found that 44 per cent of working families with children, equating to 3.8 million households across the UK, could not pay their rent or mortgage for more than one month if they became unemployed and could not immediately find work.

Researchers also found that more than one quarter of UK families would immediately face being unable to afford their home if they lost their income amid low levels of savings –around 2.4 million households.

Despite signs that the economy is recovering, homeless charity Shelter warned that millions of ordinary families, whose budgets are already at “breaking point”, are at serious risk of losing their home if they face any sudden cut in income.

Liz Clare, a helpline advisor at Shelter, said: “Every day we see the proof that just one piece of bad luck, like a sudden job loss or illness, could tip any of us into a spiral that puts the family home at risk.

“Sky-high housing costs and stagnating wages mean that saving is becoming a thing of the past for many people.

“Most of us simply don’t have enough money in the bank that we can rely on for long enough to get back on our feet.”

Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb said: “No matter how hard ordinary families work, in today’s ‘knife-edge nation’ any drop in income can all too quickly put their home at 
serious risk.

“If you lose your job, finding another one is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible.

“The government must make sure the safety net is strong enough to stop families falling through the gaps, and going through the tragedy of losing their homes.”

Shelter’s findings were projected from research among more than 7,000 adults, of which more than 4,500 pay a rent or mortgage.

The Scottish Government has schemes which can help people who are at risk of losing their home.

Under the Mortgage to Rent scheme, a social landlord – such as a housing association or local authority – can buy the person’s property and allow them to continue living there as a tenant, while the Mortgage to Shared Equity scheme sees the Scottish Government taking a financial stake in an at-risk home.

Shelter urged anyone who is worried about losing their home to get in contact with it for free, independent advice.

The Citizens Advice Bureau also has concerns over the issue and is calling for crisis funds to be made available.

Chief executive Gillian Guy said: “There is little or no room for manoeuvre for people with stretched household budgets. A month without a pay cheque because of an unexpected redundancy or work drying up can easily prove disastrous.”