A fifth of UK children could go without a Christmas present this year after nearly 20 per cent of parents said they could not afford to buy gifts without getting into debt.
The research by anti-poverty charity Turn2us showed that child poverty is hitting single parent families in particular, with one in four of those kids at risk of receiving no gifts.
More than half of parents are worried about how they will afford this Christmas in general, the report said, after the Covid-19 crisis cut incomes and caused 819,000 redundancies.
“This year has been a disaster for people’s incomes,” Turn2us chief executive Thomas Lawson said. “Jobs have been lost, businesses closed – and savings have been wiped out. Many of us will now only be able to afford Christmas by using credit.”
The charity is warning that Christmas pressures could plunge households deeper into poverty, resorting to high cost credit and building debt to get through the winter.
Everyone deserves a break this year
Researchers surveyed 2,500 working age adults across the UK in September. One in ten respondents said they could not afford heating or food while one in eight was struggling to pay their rent or mortgage costs.
Christmas money worries are hitting marginalised people hardest. Up to 26 per cent of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people cannot afford to buy presents this year, compared to 14 per cent of white people surveyed. Twice as many BAME people cannot afford heating this winter.
Meanwhile 52 per cent of disabled people expressed concern about how they would pay for Christmas compared to 36 per cent of able bodied people.
“What is truly unfair is how disproportionately the coronavirus pandemic has affected Black, Asian and other people from minoritised communities, those on low incomes, individuals with a disability, single parents, and young people,” Lawson added.
“Everyone deserves a break this year and households must be able to put hot food on the table and a couple of gifts under the tree for their children.”
The Government has a duty to provide an inclusive economy for all, Lawson added, calling for welfare reforms, while private sector companies should provide responsible credit options for people who are struggling.
— Turn2us (@turn2us_org) December 16, 2020
“It’s understandable that people may feel they have no other choice but to borrow money to pay for essentials or presents, but that could make things even worse if they can’t afford to pay it back,” Royal London head of financial capability Sarah Pennells said. The insurer is partnering with Turn2Us to boost its efforts to lift people out of poverty.
“Turn2us can help people find out whether they’re entitled to state benefits as well as charitable grants, which could make all the difference between being able to pay for food or presents, or taking on debt,” she added.
Recent figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predict the number of people facing destitution could double this Christmas.
The number of families worried about affording Christmas is so significant that charities across the country are looking for donations of toys and other items to give to families in need. Organisations like Family Action and The Toy Appeal have asked for support while food banks are looking for both donations and volunteers to support people who could otherwise go without this Christmas.