United Kingdom

In arrears with bills

Key points

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Graph 1: By income

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Graph 2: By family work status

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Graph 3: By type of bill

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Why this indicator was originally chosen

Debt and its associated problems has been a longstanding concern from a poverty perspective, the issue being to find some authoritative, relevant data on the subject.  This indicator analyses one aspect for which such data exists, namely families in arrears with their bills.

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Definitions and data sources

All the graphs show the proportion of families in arrears with at least one of their: utility bills, Council Tax payments, insurance polices, television rental or hire purchase payments.

The first graph shows the proportion of families in arrears with bills for each fifth of the household income distribution (after deducting housing costs).

The second graph, which is for working-age families only, shows the proportion of families in arrear with bills for the following family work statuses: all-working (single or couple, with one in full-time work and the other - if applicable - in full-time or part-time work); part-working (couples where one is working and the other is not plus singles or couples where no one is working full-time but one or more are working part-time); and workless.  The self-employed and pensioner families are excluded from the analysis.

For those families who are in arrears with bills, the third graph shows which bills they are in arrears with.  It does so by showing, for each type of bill, the proportion of those families who are in arrears with any bills who are also in arrears with that particular bill.  The data is presented for both all families and for families in the poorest fifth of the household income distribution (after deducting housing costs).

The data for all the graphs is the Family Resources Survey and relates to the United Kingdom.  The averaging over three-year periods has been done to improve statistical reliability.  Note that the figures are not quite the same as those published in DWP’s annual HBAI reports, as (oddly) the HBAI reports count individual adults rather than families even though the survey question is directed at the family as a whole.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: limited.  The data is only covers one particular aspect of the problems associated with debt.

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External links

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Relevant 2007 Public Service Agreements

None directly relevant.

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The numbers

Graph 1

GroupNumber of bills in arrears
ZeroOneTwo or more
Poorest fifth81% 9% 10%
2nd90% 5% 4%
Middle fifth94% 3% 3%
4h97% 2% 1%
Richest fifth99% 1% 0%

Graph 2

GroupNumber of bills in arrears
ZeroOneTwo or more
Workless families79% 10% 11%
Part-working families88% 6% 6%
All-working families95% 3% 2%

Graph 3

BillAll familiesFamilies in the poorest fifth
Council Tax38%36%
Water35%42%
Electricity35%36%
Gas31%34%
Other fuel2%2%
Telephone20%21%
TV/video rental/HP7%9%
Other HP12%12%
Insurance policies2%3%

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