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Charity study finds that nearly one quarter of UK families are in financial difficulty

15 November 2023


Shoppers on the high street in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, on Saturday

Shoppers on the high street in Chesham, Buckinghamshire, on Saturday

ONE UK household in ten with children always runs out of money before the end of each month, with nearly one quarter of families finding it very or quite difficult to manage financially, a report from the Children’s Society suggests.

In a survey, most households with children (82 per cent) reported feeling concerned about the cost of living.

The findings — drawn from the charity’s annual Good Childhood report (News, 20 September), which surveyed more than 2000 parents or carers — were published in a new report, Feeling the Strain, on Tuesday.

One in ten of the families that responded to the survey was either in arrears or unable to pay fuel bills last winter, the new report says. Two-thirds of households had taken out a loan in addition to running up debt on credit cards or mortgages; two in five respondents said that they had taken out a payday loan.

The Children’s Society said that the cost-of-living crisis was negatively affecting the well-being of children, their parents, and carers. One in five children reported that they were always or often worried about how much money their family had; half said that they sometimes worried about it.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Mark Russell, said: “Behind these statistics are real-life stories of families making difficult choices: between heating and eating, between essentials and debt. . . We passionately believe that no child should lose sleep over their family’s finances.

“Every child deserves a good childhood and as we head into the winter, these findings should serve as a wake-up call — we need an urgent government plan to lift families out of poverty.”

The charity backs an “essential guarantee” — proposed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and the Trussell Trust (News, 20 June) — which would legislate the principle that social security should protect people from going without the essentials, and that welfare support should be independently determined.

Child-focused benefits have shrunk in the past decade: child benefit is one third lower than it would have been, had it kept up with inflation, and child tax credit and the child element of Universal Credit have decreased by 22 per cent in value, the charity reports.

The JRF recently reported a “frightening” level of hardship in the UK since May, saying that two million households had been forced to turn off their fridge or freezer to save money. Its cost-of-living survey also suggested that, last month, 2.8 million households in the UK went into debt to pay for food; one third sold belongings to raise money to pay for essentials; and one in six had used community “warm rooms” — like those offered by the church-backed Warm Welcome campaign.

It also reported that, although inflation was now falling, the situation was not improving for low-income households. It has called on the Government to increase benefits in line with inflation, and unfreeze the local housing allowance to support private renters with housing costs.

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