To what extent do social security benefits allow for a minimum standard of living?

  • Published: Oct 03, 2013

The interactive graph below  shows the value of means-tested social security benefits set against the various items of expenditure that go to make up the minimum income standard (MIS). The MIS is what is considered to be the minimum acceptable standard of living in Britain today – there’s much more detail on how these numbers are calculated here. For single adults, that benefit now covers no more than what the general public believes to be the socially acceptable minimum for food, fuel and water rates. Clothing, household goods, travel, and social activity, are now beyond that budget.

We’ve adapted the analysis below to look at different family types. The MIS breaks down the total into different categories, from food and fuel to household goods and social participation. The MIS itself does not prioritise one category over another – all are essential for a minimum standard of living. But given that for working age families, out of work benefits come nowhere near this total, some categories can only be afforded in full by forgoing others completely. In the example below, we have food, fuel and water as the highest priority, and household goods, social interaction and alcohol as the lowest. In reality, people may prioritise differently, but that would mean not being able to afford a minimum amount of food or fuel. 

To view this graph on a mobile click here

This interactive graph derives from an earlier blog on the topic. Read the full blog here. Unfortunately, this visualisation cannot be viewed in older versions of Internet Explorer (IE 8 and earlier). You can download a newer version here