Leading charity Action for Children today (Thursday 6 December) warns many families in Northern Ireland face Christmas hardship as a new survey reveals nearly half (47 per cent) of parents here have been cutting back on Christmas essentials like presents, dinner and a tree for an average of four years, while a third (34 per cent) are getting into debt to afford them.

The charity is warning that the double blow of austerity and ongoing problems with universal credit could leave families facing huge debt in the aftermath of Christmas. Action for Children’s frontline services have seen a 30 per cent rise in families seeking financial advice from the charity over the last three years.

Action for Children’s national director in Northern Ireland, Dawn Shaw, said: “When you are a parent who is already struggling to make ends meet, Christmas can be a very stressful time that can lead to increased debt and difficult choices on what you can provide for the family over the festive period.  Our survey shows that this is the reality for too many families in Northern Ireland and we see this on a daily basis in our services.

“We’re asking the public to do what they can to help and become ‘Secret Santas’ for a vulnerable child – whether you can manage £10 or £50 it means we can support the most vulnerable children in our society, not just at Christmas but every day.”

Become a Secret Santa to support vulnerable children by texting CHILD to 70607 to donate £10 or by visiting iamsanta.org.uk

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