Thousands of children in Huddersfield are suffering because of family debt.
A worrying new study shows the scale of the problem faced by families who are struggling to meet household bills for food, living costs and power and to repay loans.
The survey today by The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity has revealed that 132,922 families in the Yorkshire region – one in five - are failing to keep up with household bills and loan repayments.
It means an estimated 231,000 local children are living in families with problem debt.
In Huddersfield, that equates to 5,735 families, with a total debt of more than £24m.
Each struggling family is behind on payments by an average of £4,229 and across the region families owe a total of £562m in bills and loans.
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.
While household budgets up and down the country are under strain, families with dependent children face extra pressures as they are more likely to face unexpected bills and are less able to cope with sudden financial shocks, for example redundancy, reduced hours or illness.
As families begin to struggle financially, many feel that taking on credit is the only way to make ends meet - a third of all families have had to borrow money to pay for essentials for their children in the last year. This often marks the beginning of the debt trap as credit repayments begin take up a larger proportion of income and families find themselves cutting back on essentials.
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said his office gets regular requests for help from families in debt.
“Very often, their circumstances have changed, perhaps through losing a job or through a family break-up.
“We try to do what we can by referring them to the benefits advice people in Kirklees or by trying to look for new job opportunities.
“The employment market is improving and I hope that will see the debt problems ease”.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Families in Yorkshire and the Humber 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”.