March 2016 saw SBA adopt the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s “Minimum Income Standard” (MIS) as its threshold for assessing applications. This is a pivotal decision for the charity and it brings about three key changes in how we work:
MIS figures are produced by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and they are used to produce the UK’s “Living Wage” (not to be confused with the government’s “national living wage”). Underpinning research looks in detail at what households need in order to have a minimum acceptable standard of living.
Decisions about what to include in this standard are made by groups comprising members of the public. The MIS is therefore rooted in social consensus about what people need. It’s about more than what people need to survive – food, clothes and shelter – because it also makes modest provision for being able to participate in society.
Using an on-line calculator, it’s now possible to check up to 107 variations in household size and composition! These can be further sub-divided by type of locality (such as village, rural town, urban area, London). The resulting calculation indicates net income needed per week.
For example, a lone parent who lives in a rural town with one child of primary school age would need a net income of £24,692 to achieve a basic standard of living.
Tax and other compulsory reductions are automatically included within the MIS calculation. Statutory benefits are also included, so it’s important for applicants to maximise any assistance that is available to them, particularly Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support and Support for Mortgage Interest. Disability benefits like Attendance Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Disability Living Allowance are all disregarded for the purposes of assessing income.
For colleagues unable to support themselves financially due to illness, disability or because they are over state retirement age, the MIS levels will not only determine eligibility. With effect from April 2016, they will also form the basis for considering the level at which awards are made.
SBA will always retain full discretion to augment, limit or curtain any award it makes, but the overall effect of changing over to MIS means that SBA’s annual charitable spend is set to rise by 45% in the next 12 months. It also means that most existing beneficiaries will receive higher awards.
For those whose principal need is to find work, SBA’s assistance will continue to focus primarily referring eligible candidates for help with career transition. Find out more by visiting the ‘helping you’ page on our website.