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29 September 2014

Act now to reduce the impact of debt on children

Act now to reduce the impact of debt on children

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Children's Society are urging people to lobby the House of Lords to protect children from the impact of debt and payday loans by promoting responsible credit and savings. You can contact a Lord here.

Responding to research that suggest half of children from families in debt have financial worries, The Children's Society are urging all to take action by calling for a change in the law.

They are asking peers in the House of Lords to support an amendment and vote in October to ban payday loan adverts before the watershed. The Debt trap campaign, which is using the Consumer Rights Bill, aims to stop children seeing adverts that may have a negative impact on them.

In the UK, over two million children live in families dealing with problem debt. A further five million children live in families struggling to keep up with debt repayments. 

Across the country families are struggling to make ends meet. Many are relying on borrowing to provide necessities. Keeping up with repayments can quickly become unmanageable and cause a crippling cycle of debt. Along with the financial implications, the psychological consequences on children can be devastating.

In May, the Children's Society and StepChange debt charity joined forces to produce research that specifically looked at the direct impact of debt on the millions of children across the UK living in families facing problem debt.

Their report, The Debt Trap, was based on a survey of 2,000 UK families, a YouGov survey of 4,400 British adults and an in-depth interview with 15 families dealing with problem debt. As well as looking at the impact of debt on children, the report looked at the extent and causes of debt. The research revealed debt has a significant and adverse impact on children's wellbeing.

The research suggests these children are more likely to be unhappy at school and to be bullied by peers for not having the latest fashion or toys. More than half of these children worry about their family's finances and are exposed to arguments about money.

Nine out of ten families say that to keep up with repayments they have had to cut back on essentials including heating and food. The Children's Society and StepChange Debt Charity believe there are ways to successfully address this debt trap and reduce the negative consequences facing children. They recommend that government and local authorities include a greater focus on children in their debt collection strategies and would like to see them review the adequacy or protection for families with children against debt enforcement such as evictions.

After Archbishop Justin Welby's comments last year on payday lenders, such as Wonga, and his commitment to support the credit union movement and other services helping people out of financial distress, he has now set up a task group on responsible credit and savings.

The task group aims to develop the Church of England's on-going support for local credit unions as part of a more competitive financial sector that encourages responsible lending and saving. It will mobilise offers of help that the Archbishop has received following his comments last July, and met for the first time at the end of January 2014.

#ToYourCreditis a new website that will be launched next month to highlight the work of the task group, The hope is that #ToYourCredit will be used by churches and organisations when talking about money and debt issues. This will provide links to a range of different services and provide a hub space where churches can discover a rich breadth of opportunities to serve their local communities.

Sir Hector Sants, former chief executive of the Financial Services Authority and head of compliance for Barclays Bank, is chairing the group that includes the bishops of Stepney and Hull and with senior experts in banking and regulatory sectors. 

Sir Hector said: "Creating a fairer financial system is absolutely necessary if we are to create a fairer and better society in this country. The church has the capability to be pivotal to achieving this goal through harnessing the energy of its community and the value of its infrastructure to promote the responsible use of credit and savings.

"The role of the task group is to assist in achieving this vision."

Who bears the burden?: Christian theology and the impact of debt on children