Life to the full: Why CAP has adopted the Minimum Income Standard approach

Yellow smiley face ballon lying on pavement deflated
Kiri Adams

Social Policy Manager

Ahead of CAP’s latest report launch, we explore why we’ve adopted the Minimum Income Standard as an approach. 

In March, Christians Against Poverty will launch its latest research, looking at how debt interplays with poverty and living standards. The report, entitled Pushed under, pushed out, explores how debt type, repayment rates, life events and debt to income ratios all impact someone’s likelihood of falling below the Minimum Income Standard (MIS).

What is the Minimum Income Standard?

The Minimum Income Standard (MIS) is a measure of living standards. It was developed by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The level developed is based on what members of the public think someone needs for a minimum acceptable standard of living in the UK.

There are various other measures of poverty and living standards that exist, such as the poverty line and Below Average Resources measure. The UK government often uses the measure that households are considered to be below the UK poverty line if their income is below 60% of the median household income after housing costs for that year. In contrast, the Social Metrics Commission has also done work to build a measure of poverty called Below Average Resources (BAR), which also takes into account assets and debt. Each measure has its use and place, but why has CAP decided to use the Minimum Income Standard (MIS)?

Why has CAP chosen the Minimum Income Standard?

Using the Minimum Income Standard as a benchmark for our report due out in March was a deliberate choice. Those who have been following Christians Against Poverty’s policy work over the last year or more would have seen CAP calling for the level of social security and wages to be reviewed against the Minimum Income Standard. MIS is relevant to the poverty debate in that almost all households officially defined as being in income poverty (having below 60 percent of median income) are also below MIS.

Whilst our name would suggest that we are Christians against poverty, we don’t just want to be defined by what we are against. We are also Christians who are for a life in all its fullness. We don’t want to be advocating for low income households just so that they are able to scrape together enough to put food on the table. We believe that there should be more to life than just scraping by, we want to see a society where all people are thriving. A society where people can go out for coffee with a friend, where they can send their children to a birthday party with a present and where a family could take a one-week budget holiday in the UK. We want to see a world where people are able to fully participate in society, without barriers of any kind.

As debt free client Paula explained:

I can buy Christmas presents now, I can give money for birthdays. Buy things for my friends or go out for coffee with my friends, go out for lunch and for dinner. It’s amazing.’

The way we see MIS impacting our work is helping to lift our eyes to dream of better. To help give language to the society we want to see, where dignity is restored, agency is awarded to all and where people are able to experience life in all its intended fullness.

The reality right now

Right now, levels of social security and low wages are far from the MIS threshold. We know, and we see, hundreds of households struggling to afford to put the heating on, to fill their food cupboards or replace broken furniture. Our latest deficit budget statistics show that one in two people we help have an unsustainable budget – you can read about our findings here. We hear about the impacts of debt and poverty, including the immense toll on mental health. We learn of people who have not socialised in years, who are isolated and alone, sometimes we are told that a CAP Debt Coach is the first person to walk across the threshold in years. Right now people across the UK are struggling to make ends meet, and this is not okay. This is not a society we can settle for.

So that’s why CAP is campaigning for a brighter future, where all people are able to afford an adequate standard of living. That’s why CAP has used MIS as a benchmark in our latest work. On Thursday 7 March CAP will launch this latest research at a roundtable in Westminster, if you’re interested in attending please get in touch. Christians Against Poverty continues to call for policy changes that would see people having enough to live on. We will not stop until poverty no longer exists in the UK.

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