The Open Data Institute (ODI) has published its latest report on how the cost of living crisis impacts people in the UK from free school meals to families going to food banks. The cost of living: how data can help tackle the crisis shows the crisis has hit young people hardest according to most measures of poverty and economic difficulties, with one in five (20%) 16-24-year-olds now living in poverty.
The new report also identifies as many as 3.6 million people missing from the official data about fuel poverty, which only includes homes with an EPC rating of D or below. In the 2021-22 English Housing Survey, almost seven in ten (68.7%) properties in the social rental sector had an EPC rating of C or above. This compares to 44.5% of privately rented properties and 42.9% of owner-occupied properties. Nearly three-quarters (73.3%) of purpose-built low-rise flats and 84.5% of purpose-built high-rise flats had an EPC rating of C and above. This means that data about many low-income households in social housing is excluded from the fuel poverty statistics.
Another anomaly in data collection that affects young people is pointed out by Centrepoint. They highlight that only age-disaggregated data about people eligible for homelessness duty is published in official statistics. However, every year, around a third of those presenting to homelessness services do not reach the formal assessment stage and, therefore, do not appear in official statistics, making the Government blind to the full needs of vulnerable young people.
Dr Tom Kerridge, Policy and Research Manager at Centrepoint, said:
“There is a disconnect between official government data on youth homelessness and the reality we face. Government data on youth homelessness only represents those who are owed a prevention or relief duty after being assessed, but we know from our own research that around one-third presenting as homeless or at risk don’t even reach this point. This could mean that thousands are missed, which can skew crucial support and funding away from where it’s needed most. We need the government to standardise the way data is collected and reported across local government if we are ever to end youth homelessness.”
Matt Copeland, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at National Energy Action, said:
“Data is a problem across the board for energy. In addition to a fuel poverty metric for England that does not reflect the energy crisis, issues with data are also beginning to impact the reported cost of energy. Lack of data affects our ability to offer support to the most vulnerable households in society, as well as providing scrutiny of UK Government plans to reduce fuel poverty.”
The Salvation Army’s Lt Col. Dean Pallant said:
“This report shows how important it is to understand the depth of the problem people face today. Clear data is key to getting help to where it is needed most.”
Luke Maynard, Head of Policy at UK Youth said:
“This new work by the ODI highlights the need for the publication of an open data resource to ensure young people, along with others most in need, are not missed and organisations can build shared solutions to support them.”
100 datasets from more than 50 sources have been linked and analysed for the first time, including government/ONS and the third sector, such as Citizens Advice, StepChange, Fareshare and the Trussell Trust. The report, which covers food insecurity, fuel poverty, housing and debt, is accompanied by a free-to-use interactive data visualisation tool with over 100 datasets linked for the first time. This tool allows anyone to easily see data about housing, fuel, food poverty and debt in their local area. A further tool is provided for researchers and policymakers to use.
Resham Kotecha, Head of Policy at the ODI, said:
“This report shows how vital data is to the understanding of the impact of the cost of living crisis on people across the UK. At the ODI, we strongly believe in the power of data to benefit people in their daily lives, and this is another clear example of how improving data infrastructure can help and why we urgently need to fill these data gaps.
“Our report shows the multiple issues experienced by households across the UK. Data collection following an open data standard would allow more effective support to be delivered to those most at risk and prevent data gaps that mean people don’t appear in the official statistics. Effective support targeting could also produce efficiency savings for the UK taxpayer.”
TL:DR into free school meals and food banks
- New analysis of the cost of living crisis by the Open Data Institute (ODI) shows under-25s consistently score higher on many poverty indicators than other age groups:
- Three quarters (76%) of low-income 18-24-year-olds in the UK are going without essentials, and nearly half are in arrears on energy or utility bills (46%).
- One in five (20%) of all 16 – 24-year-olds in the UK now live in poverty – usually defined as where the household income is less than 60% of the median income.
- Almost half of all 18-24-year-olds in England and Wales were forced to borrow money from friends or family last year (47%)
- 25% of households headed by those under 25 in England are in fuel poverty, with these households having the highest average fuel poverty gap.
- Under 25s comprise 7% of rough sleepers in England – with a further 129,000 either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. However, poor data collection methods may mean these figures are significantly underestimated.
- For the first time, 100 datasets from more than 50 sources have been linked and analysed to give the most comprehensive overview of data about the cost of living crisis. The ODI has developed two new data visualisation tools to show the impact at a local level.
- However, the analysis reveals gaps and inconsistencies in the data, with certain individuals and groups being missed completely and disparities in how age group categories and geographical areas are captured by different organisations.
- The ODI is calling for an overhaul of national standards in data collection and analysis. Better national data infrastructure would allow the government, devolved administrations, local authorities and charities to effectively target help towards those who need it most.
- In addition, the ODI is asking for better definitions relating to fuel poverty, highlighting that many are missing from official statistics.
- Publication of a cost of living ‘help database’, following an open data standard, could help people in need to better identify local support services.
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