In 2008, with our Minimum Income Standards research, the news for low-income families was grim, but not hopeless. We found that ‘safety-net’ benefits did not provide a basic living standard for parents who had lost their jobs, but required their families to live at a third below what the public thought you need for an acceptable life. But this was better than for those without children, who got less than half.
And while a minimum wage was also insufficient to bring families above this level, it was not too far below – about £1 extra an hour was needed. Since this was still a time when family benefits, in and out of work, were becoming generous, many low-income families were within touching distance of being able to make ends meet: to provide their children with the necessities of life without going into disastrous debt.