Thousands of children in Northampton go without daily essentials and even face bullying at school as a result of debt problems, which affect 20 per cent of families in the town.
Research by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity has revealed that more than 5,000 Northampton families are trapped by debt, owing a total of just under £10 million.
The total owed in other parts of the county is: Wellingborough £6,686,454; South Northamptonshire £4,220,824; Kettering £4,805,889; Daventry £4,617,832; Corby £6,143,180.
As spokesman for the charities said: “Children in families with problem debt are more than twice as likely to be unhappy at school and be bullied because they don’t have the same things as their friends.
“More than half of children in families with problem debt say they worry about their family’s financial situation.
“Nine out of ten families in problem debt say they have had to cut back on essentials like food, clothing or heating for their children in order to keep up repayments.”
This means an estimated total of 172,000 children in the region are affected by debt, which, the charities report, can cause them to suffer from worry and anxiety, experience bullying and miss out on essentials.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Families in the East Midlands 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.
“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: “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.”
The statistics follow the launch of The Debt Trap, a campaign by The Children’s Society to lift the lid on the impact of debt on children’s lives.
It reveals that struggling families in the East Midlands are, on average, each behind on payments by £2,000, adding up to a total of £203 million in bills and loans.
Further analysis of the figures shows families with dependant children are the most likely to become trapped in a “downward spiral of borrowing” as they are more likely to face unexpected bills and are less able to cope with sudden financial shocks, such as redundancy or illness.
The charities reported that a third of all UK families have had to borrow money to pay for essentials for their children in the last year.
In a bid to put an end to the ‘debt trap’, The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity are beginning an appeal, calling on the Government to develop a ‘breathing space’ scheme to give struggling families extended periods of protection from additional charges and enforcement action, provide wider and earlier access to debt support services, and impose tighter restrictions on advertising loans to children.