Charity reports 325% surge in public sector workers needing financial help

19th March 2020 / United Kingdom
Charity reports 325% surge in public sector workers needing financial help

National poverty charity, Turn2us, has revealed a staggering 325% increase in public sector workers seeking its financial help since 2011.


Between 2010 and 2019, the proportion of grants Turn2us gave to public sector workers increased by 195% for health and social care employees, 217% for education employees, and 463% for government and local government employees.

In total, these three public sector job categories accounted for 13.67% of Turn2us grants given in 2018/19, up from 4.29% in 2010/11.

Sarah (not her real name), a mother of two, lives in Yorkshire and works as a civil servant. She was barely getting by paycheque-to-paycheque when her Council Tax bill suddenly rose from £84 to £145.

Sarah had to go into her overdraft to pay the bill, and then faced the overdraft charges from her bank. As the debts racked up she missed a council tax bill.

Consequently, her local authority told her she had to pay a lump sum of £581 or face eviction. Only with a charitable grant was she able to get some temporary relief.

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at Turn2us, said: “Public sector employees – our teachers, nurses and firemen – should not have to rely on charity to make ends meet.

“In-work poverty is climbing in our country and too many underpaid employees are being left with nothing at the end of each month. Once inflation is accounted for, many public sector workers are earning less per month than they were at the start of the decade. The government must increase pay levels ahead of the budget if we want to reverse the trend of rising in-work poverty.”


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In work poverty

A Cardiff University study led by Dr Rod Hick revealed that between 2004/5 and 2014/15, the rate of poverty for adults living in working households rose by a quarter, from 12.4 per cent to 15.7 per cent. Today, it’s 18 per cent

Six out of ten of those who experience in-work poverty live in private or social rented accommodation. Hick says:

“I expect this to continue in the coming years, and I think we’re going to hear much more about the link between housing costs and poverty. There has been a shift away from owner-occupation and a significant growth in the private rented sector. It’s not clear to me that this shift is going to abate any time soon. This is problematic from a poverty perspective because the private rented sector is associated with high housing costs, and elevated poverty rates, and a continued shift towards the private rented sector is likely to generate upward pressures on poverty rates in the UK.”


Six in ten of those who experience in-work poverty live in households with only one person in employment.  Among people living in jobless households who go on to find work, a quarter will enter in-work poverty anyway.

The main problem with rising poverty is housing costs, which is aptly demonstrated by Sarah’s experience. The average property rent in the UK has increased by almost 14 per cent in the last five years where pay for those in the bottom 25 per cent of household income has barely risen at all.

The other problem is the explosion of household debt. In just the last two years, household debt has increased by 11 per cent to a new record. The poorest 10% of households have debts three times bigger than the value of assets they own. 44 per cent of people with these debts consider them a burden they are unable to pay back.

Public sector workers falling into the poverty trap is just one more indicator that inequality continues to rise, that too much money is trickling upwards and that the funding costs of putting a roof over your head are eating heavily into pay not adequate enough to live on.


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