The cost of basic goods and services needed by the average two-child household in the UK has risen by £400 a month, according to an analysis that suggests families are experiencing faster inflation than official figures indicate.
Costs for families with two children have risen by an annual rate of 13%, according to the research from Loughborough University, faster than the 9% rate of inflation found in official statistics – itself a 40-year high.
UK households are grappling with a cost-of-living crisis, as prices rise significantly faster than wages, cutting spending power.
Energy price rises have been a particular driver, with the recovery from coronavirus lockdowns followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine driving a global price surge. The UK wholesale natural gas futures price was £148 per therm on Friday, well over three times higher than a year before.
Food prices have also increased by 9.3% over the past year, while childcare costs are up 6.7%. The researchers found that families are spending about an extra £120 per month on energy, £90 more on transport including petrol, and £65 on childcare.
The figures form part of research on the minimum income standard (MIS), an ongoing programme to work out budgets for different household types to match people’s perceptions of a “minimum acceptable standard of living in the UK”. They are widely used by charities and government, and form part of the basis of calculations of a living wage.
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Families are rationing showers to once a week, giving up milk in their tea and eating cold meals to avoid using the oven to keep costs down, said Peter Matejic, a deputy director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a charity that funds the MIS research.
“Rising prices are affecting all of us but for the UK’s poorest families there is no escape from soaring costs because so much of their income goes into the basics that everyone needs to take part in society,” Matejic said.
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“Those on the lowest incomes are now facing dangerously high inflation months ahead of the Bank of England’s projections, and with no adequate support mechanism to protect their families from harm.”
The charity has called for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to increase benefit payments in line with inflation so that families can pay for their basic needs.
Matt Padley, an associate director at Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy, said it was the largest increase in the cost of the minimum basket of goods and services since at least 2008 when the calculation was first made. Further increases are due later in the year when the energy price cap is expected to jump again, raising energy costs for millions of households when colder autumn weather hits.