Family debt takes toll on
children in North West
MORE than 387,000 children in the North
West are living in 224,000 families trapped in problem debt, new research by The
Children's Society reveals. It means that 25% of families with children in the
region have been failing to keep up with household bills and loan repayments in
the past year (2016).
The evidence, based on a survey commissioned by the charity, also shows that
families with children are more than twice as likely to have been trapped in
problem debt as childless households.
The survey found that, across England and Wales, 20% of families with children
have struggled with problem debt in the last year. By comparison, the proportion
of households without children who have fallen into arrears with one or more
creditors is just under 8%.
The families who have been behind on their debts; a total of 1.4m nationally;
are home to 2.4m children, and The Children's Society is deeply concerned about
the damaging impact of debt on their lives. In some cases children are
going without basics such as food, clothing or heating, as well as suffering
worry, anxiety and bullying.
The survey of 2,000 adults, carried out by Opinium, found that families in
problem debt over the last year, are juggling an average of four different types
of debt. Children in low income families with multiple debts are at far higher
risk of experiencing mental health problems than those in families who owe money
to a single type of creditor.
The most common source of problem debt is arrears on energy bills, followed by
loans from:- friends and family, bank loans, and Council Tax.
While the size of family debt varies, overall 29% of parents who have been in
problem debt in the last year currently have arrears of more than £5,000.
While household budgets up and down the country are under strain, families with
dependent children face extra pressures as they are more likely to face
unexpected bills and are less able to cope with sudden financial shocks, caused
by things like redundancy, reductions in working hours or illness.
The Children's Society has found that problem debt is putting stress on family
relationships, damaging children and trapping families in a downward spiral of
As families begin to struggle financially, many feel that taking on credit is
the only way to make ends meet. This often marks the beginning of the debt trap
as credit repayments take up a larger proportion of income and families find
themselves cutting back on essentials.
The Children's Society, as part of its Debt Trap campaign, is calling for
changes to how creditors treat families with children who fall behind on bills
and repayments. It is urging the Government to introduce a 12 month
'breathing space' scheme to give struggling families a period of protection from
additional charges, mounting interest and enforcement action while they seek
advice, put their finances in order, and get back on their feet.
Today the charity is publishing a draft of a parliamentary Bill to make this
'breathing space' a reality for hundreds of thousands of families. The Bill is being
sponsored by Kelly Tolhurst MP and will be debated by MPs in the New Year.
Rob Jackson, North West Area Director at The Children's Society, said:-
"Again and again we have raised the urgent problem of families who are trapped
by debt, and whose children often pay the price with their mental and physical
health. With unfair and unsustainable repayment plans, hidden charges, soaring
interest, visits from intimidating bailiffs and the fear of eviction, the odds
are stacked against parents who are desperate to find a way out of their debt.
Meanwhile mums and dads are being forced to make impossible decisions between
feeding and clothing their children, and paying the bills. It is now
absolutely clear that this problem is not going away unless the Government takes
action to give families the breathing space they need to get their finances back
on track. Acting now could have a hugely beneficial impact, not just on family
finances in the short term but on the futures of some of the country's most
Estimated number of families and children living in problem debt
in the North
West of England.
|Local authority area
||Number of families in problem debt
||Number of children in problem debt
||Proportion of families with
children in arrears
|Blackburn with Darwen
|Cheshire West and Chester
|North West TOTAL
|England and Wales
Please note:- All figures have been
rounded so the local authority area figures, when added together, may not match
the regional total.