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09 May 2014

Impact of debt on children revealed

Impact of debt on children revealed

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. The financial and psychological consequences can be devastating and far reaching.

While it is good to see ever-increasing research and support to help people get out of debt, there is little research into the direct impact of debt on the millions of children across the UK living in families facing problem debt.

In an effort to address this, the Children's Society and StepChange debt charity have produced new research specifically looking at the impact of debt on children.

Their report, The Debt Trap, was formed through a survey with 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 looks at the extent and causes of debt.

The research reveals that debt has a significant and adverse impact on children's wellbeing.

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. 

The research suggests that 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. They would like to see them review the adequacy or protection for families with children against debt enforcement such as evictions.

They suggest introducing financial literacy in schools and establishing trial savings accounts through credit unions so that children can learn how to save from an early age.

All children deserve the best start in life. No child should have to deal with stress, anxiety and bullying. In order to effectively tackle the consequences of problem debt it is important to address causes of problem debt, provide support for those dealing with unmanageable debt and most importantly to provide financial education for families and children so they can get out of the debt trap for good.

In addition the Children's Society have also published Who bears the burden?: Christian theology and the impact of debt on children