Third of UK 'can't cover unexpected bills'

More than a third of people in the UK are living on such a tight budget that they simply can't afford unexpected financial expenses, according to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The report, entitled 'Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK and EU', found that 36.6% of people could not afford to cover the cost of things like car repairs and broken boilers - a particular worry for many at this time of year.

It means that those people could find themselves in severe financial difficulty should they come up against a bill they haven't budgeted for - and in many cases that may mean getting into debt just to make ends meet.

An expert at debt management company Gregory Pennington commented: "It seems a large number of people in the UK are on the brink of real financial problems, over things that happen to us all. The cost of repairing a burst pipe or a broken window can easily be covered with savings in some cases - but not everyone has that luxury."

The report also addressed other things which may indicate a household is in, or near, the poverty line. The ONS classes a household in 'severe material deprivation' if the occupants cannot afford at least four of the following:

  • To pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments
  • To keep their home adequately warm
  • To face unexpected financial expenses
  • To eat meat or protein regularly
  • To go on holiday for a week once a year
  • A TV
  • A washing machine
  • A car
  • A telephone

Things have got gradually worse over the course of the study, which spans from 2005 to 2011. While more than a third today cannot afford unexpected bills, only 26.6% said the same in 2007.

Joel Stanier

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