Northern Ireland’s lowest earning households left with less than £20 per week after bills and living costs

The latest Consumer Council Northern Ireland Household Expenditure Tracker figures show that the lowest earning households in Northern Ireland have seen their ‘discretionary income’ fall for the sixth consecutive quarter to just under £20 –  £19.78 – per week. This represents a massive reduction of 46.7% in discretionary income for the lowest earning households when compared with the same figures 12 months ago.

Discretionary income is the amount of income that a household has left after taxes and spending on basics such as heat and electricity, food, transport and a range of other essential goods and services. These outgoings include many of the core essentials that have seen the highest price rises over past year. While costs have gone up,  incomes have not been rising at the same pace therefore leaving less money in people’s pockets at the end of each week.

These figures include both those who are in work and those who are out of work, and include any benefits that households may be entitled to such as Universal Credit or Tax Credits. Household incomes in Northern Ireland, while they have been rising over the past four years, are still around 11% lower than the rest of the UK. This highlights the need for families to ensure that they are accessing all the financial support that they are entitled to. This is particularly important for working families who may have to pay for registered childcare. It is also vital for those families who may not previously have been entitled to support, but  who have experienced a change of circumstances such as a reduction in income or the birth of another child.

Childcare providers have also seen their costs rise over the same period and some of these costs have had to be passed on to parents in the form of higher childcare bills. Most working parents are entitled to some form of support towards their childcare costs either through Childcare Vouchers, Tax-Free Childcare, Tax Credits or Universal Credit and so we would encourage all parents to make sure they are receiving all the financial support they are entitled to, and to check regularly that they are receiving the best form of support for their family.

If you would like further advice on help with childcare costs or wish to find out more about what financial support you may be entitled to, contact Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service for free, impartial and confidential advice. Call us on 028 9267 8200 or email – we are here to help.