Millions of working families with children in the UK could not pay their rent or mortgage for more than a month if they lost their job, new figures from Shelter reveal.

The YouGov survey of working adults who pay rent or a mortgage found that with little or no savings to fall back on, 3.8 million families (44%) could be just one paycheque away from losing their home.

Worryingly, the research also found that over a quarter of all families face the nightmare scenario of immediately being unable to afford their home if they lost their income. The equivalent of 2.4 million families (29%) said that if they lost their job this month and couldn’t get another one straight away, they wouldn’t be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment from their savings.

Kate Murray lives in Liverpool with her five year old daughter and disabled mother. She lost her job as a business manager with only three days’ notice when the company she worked for went bankrupt in October 2013.

Kate said: “Before my employer went bankrupt they hadn’t been paying me properly for a while, so I’d started to fall behind on my mortgage. Then I got the letter through the door saying they wanted to take my house back. I was petrified. It’s not the best house but at least it’s our house. I thought, what am I going to do? How am I going to tell my daughter and my mum that we have to move out?”

The latest government figures on savings mirror Shelter’s research, revealing that there are 15 million working age adults in the UK with no savings at all.

The findings paint a picture of a country where millions of ordinary families, whose budgets are already at breaking point, are at serious risk of losing their home if they face any sudden cut in income.

Liz Clare, who is a helpline advisor at Shelter, said: “This research highlights the financial knife-edge that millions of us now find ourselves on – living month to month, paycheque to paycheque. Every day we see the proof that just one piece of bad luck, like a sudden job loss or illness, could tip any of us into a spiral that puts the family home at risk.

“Sky-high housing costs and stagnating wages mean that saving is becoming a thing of the past for many people. Most of us simply don’t have enough money in the bank that we can rely on for long enough to get back on our feet. We need better government support to give families the short-term help they need to keep their homes if they fall on hard times.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “No matter how hard ordinary families work, in today’s ‘knife-edge nation’ any drop in income can all too quickly put their home at serious risk. If you lose your job finding another one is hard enough, but without a stable place to live it’s almost impossible. The government must make sure the safety net is strong enough to stop families falling through the gaps, and going through the tragedy of losing their homes.”

Anyone who is worried about losing their home can contact Shelter for free, independent advice. Visit or call the helpline on 0808 800 4444.