For Louise, money was tight. She said she felt “guilty” about not giving her children the Christmas she might have liked. She relied on toy donations from generous strangers and the support of the hostel she was staying at.
This is the unfortunate reality for millions of families in the UK who might not be able to afford presents for their kids or a hot Christmas meal.
People are losing their jobs and homes over the pandemic and homeless charity Shelter says 200,000 households will be homeless this Christmas. New figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation predict the number of people facing destitution will double.
Up and down the country appeals have been launched to get toys and food to youngsters. Charities and organisations such as The Salvation Army, Family Action and The Toy Appeal have all asked for support. Food banks, including the Trussell Trust and FareShare are looking for volunteers and donations to make sure families don’t go without.
There are also local toy appeals and donation banks across the UK providing even more opportunities to help in schools, offices and independent events.
Tony Daniels, director of community services for The Salvation Army, says Christmas is always a tough time of year but this year will be extra difficult.
“The pandemic has brought some extremely difficult situations for families throughout this year,” he said.
“Christmas always brings extra demands on family budgets, but this year we’re anticipating it will be even more difficult for many.”
Louise added that her kids were “really spoilt” last Christmas and received toys, games, and arts and crafts from the hostel. But despite this, she said, not living in a normal family home can be challenging.
“It makes you feel uncomfortable, especially when the kids are at school,” she said.
“They’re talking to their friends about what they’ve had for Christmas and you just want them to be the same as their friends and not have that gaping difference between them and a normal life.”
Louise said the staff at the supported housing accommodation were “amazing” and made Christmas feel “really special”.
“It obviously wasn’t home and never would have been, but as much as it wasn’t an ideal situation, they really made the kids feel like it was normal.
“We had visits from Santa and presents. And they really tried to make it nice so it was quite lovely.”
Louise is now working at a call centre and has moved into her own place which she describes as “a family home again”.