chasm report

Social housing tenants are amongst those hardest hit by rising costs of food, energy and other essential goods and services. Including sometimes heart-wrenching stories, this qualitative case study, conducted within Castle Vale, sheds light on the lived experiences of individuals from low-income and financially precarious households.

I just sit – there’s nothing I can do. I just sit in the house, and just wait for the next payment, and then go and grab some food, and pay the gas, pay the electric, pay my phone bill, pay my internet. Basically, by the time I’ve done all that, there’s nothing left.

"Barbara"

Social housing tenants are amongst those hardest hit by rising costs of food, energy and other essential goods and services. Including sometimes heart-wrenching stories, this qualitative case study, conducted within Castle Vale, sheds light on the lived experiences of individuals from low-income and financially precarious households.

The report has yielded valuable insights and opportunities in relation to addressing food and energy poverty; providing debt, finance and employment support; and developing housing association procedures.

'Living with the Cost of Living Crisis: Experiences of Castle Vale Tenants and Residents' was funded by University of Birmingham's CHASM - Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management. It was delivered in collaboration with The Pioneer Group Housing Association and its member and partner organisations - Compass Support and Spitfire Advice and Support Service’s Ltd.

In this qualitative case study, Dr Özlem Ögtem-Young, research fellow and theme lead within the CHASM - Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management, explores the experiences of financial struggles and the impact of the cost of living crisis on low income and financially vulnerable households.

The report presents a compelling backdrop for investigating the experiences and impact of the cost of living crisis and the role of advice and support services in respect of food access, managing housing stock, and in enhancing financial resilience and overall well-being.

Our qualitative case study conducted within Castle Vale sheds light on the lived experiences of individuals from these low-income and financially precarious households. It reveals the profound impact of the cost of living crisis on their everyday lives. It also exposes the effectiveness and the role of community-based advice and support services in mitigating this impact and in navigating the challenges posed by poverty and the cost of living crisis as well as its role in enhancing financial resilience and fostering overall wellbeing. Working in collaboration between the Pioneer Group and partner organisations this study has yielded three key valuable insights through conducting 30 in-depth interviews with tenants and resident who live in Castle Vale and a follow-on focus group with professionals from the local support services. Our study revealed that:

  1. The severe financial distress faced by low-income households with the cost of living crisis worsening existing socio-economic and health inequalities and income disparities. Individuals burdened with mounting problem debt – often arising from utility bills, council tax, and rent arrears – also experience heightened mental health strain due to the ongoing challenges posed by the cost of living.
  2. The winter of 2023, marked by high inflation rates, saw individuals and families acutely experiencing food and energy poverty, impacting their everyday well-being and worsening their overall health.
  3. The crucial role of community-based advice and support services in enhancing the financial, emotional, and social well-being of Castle Vale residents. These services, deeply embedded in the community and founded on compassion and empathy, trust and relationship, continuity and familiarity play a pivotal role in promoting financial and social resilience.

Based at the University of Birmingham, within the School of Social Policy and Birmingham Business School, CHASM conducts interdisciplinary research into the causes and consequences of financial risk and insecurity, and promotes policies to foster financial wellbeing.

We have a diverse and inclusive research agenda, covering topics such as precarity, savings, debt, inequality, assets, and financial inclusion.

The persistently high rates of poverty in the UK have been compounded by the historically high inflation rates following the Covid-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine. The rising cost of essential goods and services has had a disproportionate adverse effect on low-income and vulnerable households, pushing them deeper into poverty and deprivation.

Dr Özlem Ögtem-Young