ALMOST HALF OF PARENTS AND CARERS (46 per cent) said it was likely they will need to borrow money over the winter months to pay for essentials such as food and energy, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of The Children’s Society.  

The research found this figure was even higher for parents and carers who said that they were already under financial strain (defined as those who reported finding it quite or very difficult to manage in the last three months) – with 74 per cent saying it was likely that because of rising costs they will have to borrow money for essentials.

The charity surveyed 2,000 parents and carers in the UK. Over two thirds (66 per cent) of all those surveyed and 87 per cent of parents and carers in financial strain reported that their household had run out of money before the end of the month in the last three months.

For those that celebrate, the survey suggested that rising costs will have a big impact on Christmas or festive holiday plans for many households with well over half (58 per cent) of parents and carers saying they would cut their spending on presents this year, 55 per cent that they would spend less on decorations, and 56 per cent would tighten their spending on celebratory food and drink.

As well as cutting back on Christmas at home, almost half of parents and carers (47 per cent) said they would spend less on travel to see friends and family, suggesting they may not go to see family that they didn’t already live with and 58 per cent would cut down on spending for activities like parties and outings.

Mark Russell, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society: “Many families now find themselves in a desperate situation, with money worries at an all-time high at the worst possible time of year.  The impact on children and families is devastating.

“Christmas should be a time to get together with friends and family, to relax and enjoy the festivities. But with finances so tight and many families struggling to afford even the essentials and having to borrow to get them, we predict a ticking timebomb of debt is just around the corner.

“Too many families face this immediate crisis, and the worst of winter is still to come. We urgently need to see the government step in with additional support targeted at keeping children safe and warm this winter.”

The Children’s Society has spoken to young people who have told them about how the rise in the cost of living is affecting their families.

One said: “My mum’s going to prioritise me and my sisters over herself. That makes me worry because my mum might skip meals just so we can heat the house, or so I can eat or my sisters can eat. That makes me stressed”.

Another young person said: “There are currently more foodbanks than there are McDonalds and that is just shameful. We need to end that culture of shame. Once that’s gone, we’ll have a better country because people will not be worrying, we’ll be able to go on day trips, we’ll be able to not worry about where food is going to come from on the day, and we’ll be able to heat our homes”.

The Children’s Society Protect Every Childhood campaign is calling for more investment in social security targeted at children, such as uprating child benefit and the child element of Universal Credit, as well as extending eligibility of free school meals to all children on Universal Credit.

The survey of 2,000 parents of children under the age of 18 in the UK in late November 2022 was carried out  by Opinium.

* More information on the Protect Every Childhood campaign here.

* Source: The Children’s Society