Rising energy bills and prices top financial concerns among working parents this Christmas, with many likely to miss out on key family moments, new research reveals
· Poll of working parents in Northern Ireland finds eight in ten are worried about soaring energy bills and prices in shops, with over a quarter likely to take on extra work or avoid time off to pay for Christmas. Of these, nearly all are likely to miss out on at least one key family moment like waking up on Christmas morning together or unwrapping presents together.
· Working parents on Universal Credit across the UK plan to cut back on heating and eating, with nearly a quarter saying they are likely to replace some meals with breakfast cereal.
· Children’s poll finds nearly two-thirds fear a difficult family Christmas, with their parents worried about making it a happy time. Many concerned about keeping family safe from Covid and ability of parents to afford presents and cost of Christmas.
As the country battles with the highest rate of inflation in almost ten years, new research by Action for Children today reveals soaring energy bills and rising prices are the top financial concerns among working parents in Northern Ireland this Christmas. Over a quarter (27%) said they plan to take on extra work or avoid taking time off over the festive period to cover the cost of Christmas. Of these, nearly all (95%) say they are likely to miss out on at least one key family moment like waking up on Christmas morning together and visiting family and friends.
To launch its annual Secret Santa campaign to help the country’s most vulnerable children, the charity worked with Opinium on a survey of 2,500 working parents, including 79 in Northern Ireland, and 1,000 children (aged 8-17) across the UK to explore the financial burden facing families in the run-up to Christmas.
With the governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey ‘very sorry’ that UK inflation is rising and biting on household incomes, the survey found Northern Ireland’s working parents’ top five money worries this Christmas were:
1. the rise in energy bills (80%)
2. rising prices (80%)
3. price of food (72%)
4. car fuel costs (72%), and
5. affording warm winter clothing for their family (44%).
Almost a fifth (19%) of working parents said they are likely to gift their children everyday basics, such as school books, school shoes or a school coat for their main Christmas present this year. The poll also found over a third (35%) will save on presents for their partner, almost a third (32%) plan to cut back on celebrations and parties, and almost a quarter (24%) will spend less travelling to visit friends and family and on Christmas food (23%).
This Christmas looks especially challenging for working parents on Universal Credit across the UK following the £20-a-week cut in October. Of these parents:
· nearly two in five (38%) are likely to cut back on heating
· almost a third (30%) are likely to skip meals
· nearly a quarter (24%) are likely to replace some meals with breakfast cereal or cut back on hot meals to save on energy costs (23%), and
· one in five (20%) said they will likely need to seek help from a foodbank over the break
With last year’s Christmas seen by many as having been “cancelled” due to the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the poll also found over a third (37%) of parents in Northern Ireland said they feel under more pressure to give their children a happy Christmas this year.
When asked about their parents’ biggest fears this Christmas, most children (63%) thought their mums and dads would be worried about making Christmas a happy time for their family, over half (53%) said they would be concerned about keeping their family safe and healthy from Covid-19, and a similar figure (49%) said they would be anxious about making sure everyone has presents and that they were able to afford everything they need to celebrate Christmas (47%).
Director at Action for Children in Northern Ireland, Lorna Ballard, said: ‘For most of us the festive season is a happy time but there are children all over Northern Ireland and the UK who face a very different Christmas. After almost two years of worry, isolation and poverty, many families are now at breaking point, struggling to afford the basics like food, heating and clothes.
‘Our frontline workers see the impact the pandemic and cost of living crisis is having on children and families who are under pressure every day, but we also see the difference that can be made – that’s why we’re asking people to donate to help us make a life-changing difference to vulnerable children this Christmas and beyond.
‘With your help this Christmas we can be a vital lifeline for even more UK children. We can make sure they have the basics, like hot meals and proper winter clothes and offer emergency support to keep homes warm and help families pay the bills.’
To be a Secret Santa this Christmas for a vulnerable child text CHILD to 70607* or visit iamsanta.org.uk/community