50,000 Hampshire And Dorset Families 'Can't Pay Debts'

13 August 2014, 06:19 | Updated: 13 August 2014, 06:34

It's claimed tens of thousands of children on the South Coast are living in families who can't pay their debts.

A study's shown 50,000 families in Hampshire and Dorset owe more than £200 million in loans and bills.

A third have borrowed money to buy essentials for their children.

An investigation by The Children's Society and StepChange Debt Charity earlier this year found that debt puts stress on family relationships and traps families in a downward spiral of borrowing.
The charities' report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children, showed how family debt causes children to suffer from worry and anxiety, experience bullying and miss out on essentials.
A national survey found almost two and a half million children across the country live in families owing a total of £4.8bn in bills and loans.

On the South Coast, families in Southampton owed more than £25 million, in Portsmouth it's nearly £22 million and in Bournemouth more than £10 million.

The Isle of Wight had the highest proportion of families struggling, with 35% in problem debt.

You can see the full report, with all local statistics, here.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children's Society, said:

"Families in the South East 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 research 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 a 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."