May 2024 | Fair Point | abrdn Financial Fairness Trust Newsletter

30 May 2024

From court fines to rural housing

As May draws to a close, the issue at the top of most people’s minds is the announcement of the next general election. Moments of change such as this create new opportunities for impact and progress on issues at the heart of our work.

The trust currently funds more than 35 programmes of work in relation to financial wellbeing. The varied range of topics covered by our funded partners is testament to the complexity of the different aspects of financial wellbeing and what is needed to improve living standards for people on low-to-middle incomes.

This month’s newsletter highlights the diverse spectrum of that work. In May, our partners have produced regional spotlights on low-use housing, highlighted the impact of court fines and associated costs on those in poverty, examined the national picture on migrant destitution and produced analysis of key general election policy issues. Find out more below.

Court fines push people struggling with the cost of living further into debt and worse mental health

New research undertaken by the Centre for Justice Innovation shows that criminal court fines have a disproportionate impact on people already struggling to make ends meet. The courts in England and Wales aim to ensure that fines have an equal impact on people regardless of their financial circumstances, but the Centre’s research shows that people on low-to-middle incomes end up with poor financial and mental health outcomes.

The research highlights that a large proportion of the offences for which court fines are given are strongly linked to poverty, such as TV licence evasion or not paying the bus fare. As part of the research, the Centre interviewed 56 people on low incomes sentenced to fines who reported that the financial burden caused by fines often pushed them further into debt. In addition, court costs associated with fines are not means-tested. The combination of the two led some to report  taking on high interest credit, having to skip meals and use food banks and going into rent arrears to pay off their fine.

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Report on rural and coastal housing crisis identifies ‘ghost enclaves’ of low-use homes and calls for action on second homes and short-term lets

A research project led by the University of Sheffield has identified ‘ghost enclaves’: Areas with over 25% of residential property that is low use or out of use. Areas featuring these enclaves include Cornwall, Dorset, Gwynedd, Argyll and Bute, North Norfolk and Scarborough.

The report identifies clear connections between low-use homes and a host of impacts, including housing affordability, loss of permanent residents and local economic impacts. The report calls for changes which will help to produce more affordable homes for full-time residents, particularly those on low-to-middle incomes.

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Migrant destitution in the UK at a record high

A major study conducted by the University of Oxford's Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity, has identified a 150% increase in destitute migrant families accessing local authority support (including an estimated 10,500 children). This rise has taken place in less than a decade and is the result of exclusion from the mainstream welfare safety net due to their immigration status.
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General election campaign monitor

The IFS’s campaign monitor project (co-funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Trust) will continue to provide objective analysis of the policy proposals put forward in the run-up to the General Election- such as this [link] snap briefing on the ‘triple lock’ income tax personal allowance for pensioners . the IFS have also produced analysis and briefings on areas including: The future of the Office for Budget Responsibility, the economic and fiscal trade-offs awaiting the next government and the outlook for health spending over the years to come.

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