The latest Resident Voice Index report from MRI Software shines a light on the sentiments of UK social housing residents in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.
The responses of over 5,200 UK social housing residents show that households are having to make tough choices. Over half (53 per cent) of respondents reported having turned to using credit or unregulated buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services to pay for essential household costs. With a further 20 per cent having considered doing so, there is a ticking time-bomb for households which are on the edge of coping.
The use of these services is more prevalent in younger residents, with the under 35s being 2.5 times more likely to be using credit or BNPL often. Additionally, the more financial dependants a respondent had, the more likely they were to be using these services. Consequently, households with children or other financial dependants are likely to need extra support over the coming months.
One of the biggest indicators of the challenges being faced was the frequent use of the word ‘food’ in the free-text input from latest Resident Voice Index survey. Analysis of these responses revealed numerous examples of parents skipping meals to feed their children, increased use of food banks and people eating only cold food to avoid using domestic energy.
The key findings from the report are:
- Over half (53 per cent) have used credit or a BNPL service to cover an essential household cost in the past 12 months; a further 20 per cent had considered using those services.
- Almost 90 per cent of people under 35 said they were already using or considering using buy-now-pay-later or credit to pay for essential household costs.
- 68 per cent of all respondents reported being worried all or most of the time about meeting their normal monthly expenses (82 per cent for people under 35).
- Only four per cent of respondents said they rarely worried about money.
- 56 per cent of respondents didn’t know that help or support would be available to them if they faced a financial struggle.
- Almost 6 in 10 (58 per cent) respondents didn’t think that they had the power to influence their future financial situation.
Bare bones living
Another core theme that emerged was that residents felt there was nothing more to cut. Many indicated that they were already living on shoestring budgets. This isn’t just an example of forgoing holidays, trips out with the family or self-proclaimed ‘luxuries’. Instead, for a proportion of those who answered, it’s applying increased pressure to already ‘bare bones’ living.
“I can’t cut back on anything because I already don’t overspend on anything; I can’t possibly cut back on anything because I already don’t have money to spend on anything.”
Resident Voice Index respondent
This bare bones living is especially important to advocate against for those who cannot increase their income. For those of pension age and those who are unable to work (e.g. because of disability or raising children), earning more money is simply not an option.
High levels of desperation
While we expected the results of this year’s Resident Voice Index survey to be hard hitting, we were truly 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 sharing these accounts, we urge anyone with the ability to enact change, however small, to do so.
Developed by MRI Software, the Resident Voice Index project is a long-term independent initiative that asks questions of a broad spectrum of social housing residents. Previous reports have covered diverse topics such as residents’ sense of community and belonging, safety and loneliness. Striving for a ‘residents first’ approach, the project incorporates the residents’ views at every stage of the process, with a commitment to publish the reports to residents first.
This research project is designed to give something back to the social housing sector beyond MRI Software’s conventional CSR activities, one of the reasons why the report is available as a free resource for anyone in our sector.
For the full report and its actionable insights, visit residentvoiceindex.com; to get involved in future surveys, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Doug Sarney is the project lead of the Resident Voice Index at MRI Software.