Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Clwyd South said the UK Government was targeting children and vulnerable people with its austerity measures, saying that communities in Wales suffered more than other parts of the UK. The statistics in the Children’s Society report showed that Wrexham had more children living in families with debt than the Welsh average.
The research shows that an estimated 4,053 children in Clwyd South and 3,503 children in Wrexham are living in families trapped in debt.
Mabon ap Gwynfor said: “It is disgraceful that the world’s fifth-largest economy can find money for weapons of mass destruction, for building projects such as the HS2 train line from London to Leeds, but can’t ensure that the next generation live without the anxieties or worries caused by debt.
“Wrexham has just seen a new foodbank opening and we have more people facing in-work poverty. At the same time the wealthiest have become wealthier and the UK Government is cutting vital welfare payments for the most vulnerable.
“This shouldn’t be happening in a relatively wealthy society. What’s worse is that the Labour Party have said that if they were in power they would continue with the Tories cuts. So whether it’s a Labour or Tory Government more children in Wrexham will find themselves living in debt-ridden families through no fault of their own.”
Press Release from Step Change
Tens of thousands of children in Wales hit by family debt crisis
Tens of thousands of children in Wales are living in families trapped by debt, research by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity has revealed.
A new study shows that 86,009 families in the country – 23% of the total – are failing to keep up with household bills and loan repayments.
It means an estimated 148,059 local children are living in families with problem debt.
Each struggling family is behind on payments by an average of £2,058 and across the country families owe a total of £177m in bills and loans.
An investigation by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity earlier this year found that debt puts stress on family relationships and traps families in a downward spiral of borrowing.
The charities’ report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children, showed how family debt causes children to suffer from worry and anxiety, experience bullying and miss out on essentials.
A UK-wide survey found almost two and a half million children live in families owing a total of £4.8bn in bills and loans.
Further analysis of this research reveals for the first time the extent of the impact of debt on families in Wales. It follows the launch of The Debt Trap, a campaign by The Children’s Society to lift the lid on the massive impact of debt on children’s lives.
The debt trap
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, for example redundancy, reduced hours or illness.
As families begin to struggle financially, many feel that taking on credit is the only way to make ends meet – a third of all families have had to borrow money to pay for essentials for their children in the last year. This often marks the beginning of the debt trap as credit repayments begin take up a larger proportion of income and families find themselves cutting back on essentials.
Ending the debt trap
The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity are calling on governments to:
- Consider developing a ‘breathing space’ scheme to give struggling families an extended period of protection from additional charges, further interest and enforcement action
- Review whether the protection for children against the harm caused by debt collection – including evictions, bailiffs and court action – is working
- Provide earlier and wider access to debt support and advice to help families put the brakes on a downward cycle of debt and reduce the impact on children.
- Impose tighter restrictions on advertising loans to children.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Families in Wales are increasingly relying on debt as a way to make ends meet – but we’re in danger of ignoring the impact this is having on children now and in the future. We cannot allow children to pay the price of debt.
“With little savings to fall back on, it can take just one unexpected setback – like illness or being made redundant – to tip a family over the edge and into a debt trap that can feel impossible to escape from.
“This research exposes the shocking reality of parents lying awake at night worrying and unhappy children going without. Many families are feeling the squeeze and parents struggling on low wages are battling just to pay the bills.”
Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said:
“This research is a stark warning to policymakers, creditors and the wider society of the devastating effects of debt on children. Families face a unique set of pressures, but the sad reality is that for many parents credit which is often unsustainable has become the only way to cover their essential household bills.
“As parents become trapped in a toxic cycle of debt, children can become the unwitting victims. This is not acceptable in a society that aspires to justice and fairness. We need concerted action to ensure financially vulnerable families are given ‘breathing space’ to help them get back on their feet and protect both children and families from the most harmful effects of debt.”
Table: Families and children living with problem debt
The following table shows the number of families in problem debt, the percentage of all families in problem debt, the number of children living in families with problem debt, and the estimated total debt owed by all families in the area.
||% of families in problem debt||
||Total debt owed by families|
|Alyn & Deeside||3,379||32%||5,816||£ 6,953,229|
|Blaenau Gwent||2,527||28%||4,351||£ 5,201,234|
|Brecon & Radnorshire||1,410||19%||2,427||£ 2,901,741|
|Cardiff Central||1,423||18%||2,450||£ 2,929,116|
|Cardiff North||1,716||16%||2,954||£ 3,531,364|
|Cardiff South and Penarth||2,873||20%||4,946||£ 5,912,982|
|Cardiff West||2,314||19%||3,984||£ 4,763,235|
|Carmarthen East & Dinefwr||1,743||22%||3,000||£ 3,586,114|
|Carmarthen West and Pembrokeshire South||1,942||23%||3,343||£ 3,996,738|
|Clwyd South||2,354||25%||4,053||£ 4,845,360|
|Clwyd West||2,860||34%||4,923||£ 5,885,607|
|Cynon Valley||2,620||28%||4,511||£ 5,392,858|
|Dwyfor Meirionnydd||1,570||26%||2,702||£ 3,230,240|
|Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney||2,275||22%||3,916||£ 4,681,111|
|Newport East||2,155||20%||3,709||£ 4,434,736|
|Newport West||2,301||21%||3,961||£ 4,735,860|
|Preseli Pembrokeshire||1,703||19%||2,931||£ 3,503,989|
|Swansea East||2,514||23%||4,328||£ 5,173,859|
|Swansea West||2,088||27%||3,595||£ 4,297,862|
|Vale of Clwyd||4,429||49%||7,625||£ 9,115,847|
|Vale of Glamorgan||2,142||17%||3,687||£ 4,407,361|
|Ynys Mon||1,570||20%||2,702||£ 3,230,240|
Ways that debt affects children’s lives
The report reveals the numerous ways that debt affects children’s lives:
- Bullying – Children in families with problem debt are more than twice as likely to be unhappy at school and be bullied because they don’t have the same things as their friends.
- Worry – More than half of children (58%) in families with problem debt say they worry about their family’s financial situation
- Family – Half of children in families with problem debt (47%) say it causes arguments in the family.
- Going without – Nine out of ten families in problem debt say they have had to cut back on essentials like food, clothing or heating for their children in order to keep up repayments.
- Early exposure to debt – More than half of children aged 10 to 17 said they saw advertising for loans ‘often’ or ‘all of the time’. But only one in five children said that their school had taught them about money management and debt
- For the purpose of this research, a family with ‘problem debt’ is one which has fallen behind on the repayments of bills or credit commitments. Families with debt, but where they are keeping up with payments, are not included.
- Findings about numbers of children and families in problem debt are based on a survey of 2000 families with children across the UK with 91 in Wales.
- These figures are broken down from regional to parliamentary constituency level on the basis of the most recently available individual insolvency statistics which can be found here:
- Individual insolvency statistics were used as a proxy for the level of financial difficulty in a constituency within a region. The relative incidence of individual insolvency within a constituency in a region was used to estimate the number of families in problem debt in that constituency relative to other constituencies within the same region. We are aware other proxies for levels of financial distress in regions and constituencies can be used.
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers.
- StepChange Debt Charity’s ethos is to help the ‘can’t pays’, not the ‘won’t pays’, and does not condone debt avoidance. StepChange Debt Charity always aims to help its clients pay back what they owe, in a realistic timescale and manner that is suited to each individual’s situation.
- The StepChange Debt Charity free phone helpline 0800 138 1111 is open 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm Saturday. Online help is available any time from StepChange Debt Charity Debt Remedy at the StepChange website
- Join the conversation on Twitter – use the #DebtTrap hashtag