Stephen has today called for families facing problems with debt to be better supported and protected after a report highlighted the impact of debt on children.
The Children's Society and StepChange Debt Charity have combined to produce The Debt Trap, a new report which claims problem debt is placing stress on family relationships, damaging children and trapping families in a downward spiral of borrowing.
The report - which can be read by clicking here - finds that two and a half million children live in families with problem debt. These families are in a combined debt of £4.8 billion in household bills and loan repayments. A further five million children are in families struggling to keep up with payments and risk falling behind in payments too.
The report finds that children are suffering with heightened worry and anxiety as well as experiencing bullying and going without essentials.
Speaking after an event in parliament to highlight the worrying findings of the report, Stephen said: "This report is a disturbing new insight into how children are affected by debt. It’s not right that nine out of ten families in problem debt say they have had to cut back on essentials for their children in order to keep up repayments. I will be working in Parliament with Step Change and The Children’s Society to improve the support that families in debt receive. It is vital that the government reviews whether the protection for children against the harm caused by debt collection is adequate."
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Families 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 report 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 an 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.”
Findings are based on a representative survey of 2,000 UK families commissioned by The Children’s Society, a survey of 4,400 British adults by YouGov and 15 in-depth interviews with families with problem debt.