One in five mums are finding it so hard to make ends meet that they are missing meals to feed their children, according to a leading parenting website.
In a survey of over 2000 members on their site, the researchers at Netmums found what it called “shocking” evidence of the impact the economic downturn is having on the lives of ordinary families in the UK.
Seven out of ten families claimed they were ‘living on the edge’ financially, while a fifth of all mums interviewed said they ‘regularly’ missed meals so they could afford food for their children.
The survey also found that borrowing to make ends meet was rife, with 25 per cent of families living on credit cards and five per cent resorting to ultra-high-interest payday loans to supplement their income. Payday loans offer short term credit, but impose very high interest charges on loans. Families in trouble end up taking further loans to repay steep late repayment fees, a cycle which can get out of hand within weeks.
The stresses of struggling to make ends meet were having a corrosive effect on family life, according to the report’s authors. One in three couples claimed that financial pressures had damaged their relationships, with one in ten admitting their children had witnessed moneyrelated arguments. One in six parents said they were being treated for stress-related illnesses brought on by money worries.
Netmums founder Sally Russell said: “Mums shouldn’t be missing meals to feed their children or turning to loan sharks in modern Britain.”
The study found that two in three families had seen their incomes drop in the past year and were finding they were short of cash on a weekly basis. As a result, nearly nine in ten said they were cutting back on spending ‘as hard as possible’, a situation which analysts fear will do nothing to kick-start the already cash-starved economy.
One in eight families have seen one or more parents made redundant in the past 12 months, while one in six mums said they have had to give up work to look after their children as they could no longer afford childcare.
In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions argued that their welfare reforms will have an impact on some of the poorest families in the UK. They hope the reforms will lift over one million people out of poverty.
They went on to indicate their support for low income families highlighting the £6.5 billion a year investment in financial support for lone parents. Although they conceded debt remains a real driver of poverty, adding: “This is why we need credit unions to be supported and strengthened to ensure that illegal loan sharks can’t plague the homes of vulnerable people and offer a real alternative to doorstep and payday lenders.”