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Poor families 'hit by costs gap'

Poor families are finding it even tougher to make ends meet because the gap between the cost of essentials and real wages is widening, according to a report.

The bill for what the public considers basic necessities has soared 28% since 2008 while average earnings have increased by 9%, research has found.

Single people need to earn £16,300 a year before tax to afford a minimum acceptable standard of living while a couple with two children needs to bring in a total of £40,600 before tax, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) analysis revealed.

Chief executive Julia Unwin said: "These figures show there is still a lot of work needed to make up the lost ground for low income families. The income they need to make ends meet has soared at a time when their ability to make up the shortfall is severely constrained.

"There is no guarantee recovery will restore living standards for the poorest families, so we need joined-up measures to help alleviate the pressure on the worst off households: as the recovery gathers momentum, we must ensure those in greatest need feel the benefits of growth."

The figures are based on the JRF's m inimum income standard (MIS), which sets out the basics that should be included in a minimum household budge according to public opinion.

Pensioners listed having the internet at home as essential for the first time while working age adults without children said that having a landline is no longer necessary.

Report author Abigail Davis said: "Throughout the past few difficult years, the people we talk to have held a consistent view of what it means to live at an acceptable level in the UK.

"It means being able to afford to feed your family and heat your home properly, but also having enough to buy a birthday present for your children, and to spend time with your family away from home, such as the occasional meal out.

"The growing number of people who fall below this standard are unable to afford basic goods, services and activities that most of us would take for granted."

A Treasury spokesman said: "The best way to help those in the most need is to have a strong economy that creates jobs, and a tax and welfare system that helps people into work and makes work pay.

"The Government's long-term economic plan is doing exactly that - the increase to the tax-free personal allowance to £10,500 will lift over three million people on the lowest incomes out of paying income tax altogether and will mean that someone working full-time on the minimum wage will see their income tax bill cut by over two thirds."

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