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The Debt Trap

by glynch — last modified 08 May, 2014 03:13 PM

Bishop Nicholas calls for problems blighting kids' lives to be fixed after damning Children's Society report

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Right Revd Nicholas Holtam, has welcomed the publication of a report highlighting the devastating impact of debt on children. The report, published jointly by the Church of England’s Children’s Society and the StepChange Debt Charity, says children in families with problem debt suffer bullying, anxiety and going without things others take for granted.

Bishop Nicholas said:

“2.5 million children live in families with problem debt. A further 5 million are in families struggling to repay debt. The Children’s Society lifts the lid on ‘the debt trap’ and suggests ways that would help fix it and make life better for millions. I hope we will care enough to make the effort for the sake of our children.”

The report, entitled The Debt Trap, says that problem debt is putting stress on family relationships, damaging children and trapping families in a downward spiral of borrowing.          

Two and a half million children live in families with problem debt, who are behind on £4.8 billion of household bills and loan repayments. A further five million children are in families that are struggling to keep up with repayments and risk falling behind.

This new report says that children in families with problem debt are more than twice as likely to because they don’t have the same things as their friends. More than half of these children say they worry about their family’s financial situation. A shocking 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.

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.

The report calls for changes to how creditors treat families with children who fall behind on bills and repayments. It also asks the government to consider introducing a ‘breathing space’ scheme to give struggling families an extended period of protection from additional charges, further interest and enforcement action.

The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, also commented on the report, “Parents living in poverty face incredibly difficult choices. What is to come first? Heating your home or putting food on the table? Many choose to go without themselves so they can provide the basics for their children. Parents want to make the best choices for their family, but low wages, expensive childcare and inflexible jobs make this very difficult.

“Shockingly, in  many of these families one or more of the adults are actually in work. So many of these problems would be eased if workers were paid a living wage.”

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