Quarter of Redditch families in problem debt

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A QUARTER of families in Redditch are living in problem debt, according to a shocking new report published by The Children's Society.

The charity has published an interactive map which allows people to check the area they live for the level of problem debt.

According to the latest figures, 5,259 children, which is 2,954, families are in problem debt, which means the total proportion of families facing this issue is 25 per cent.

In the West Midlands as a whole, 19 per cent of families are in problem debt.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: "Families 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 from.

"This research exposes the shocking reality of parents lying awake at night worrying and unhappy children going without. Many families are feeling the squeeze and parents struggling on low wages are battling just to pay the bills."

Redditch fared badly compared to neighbouring Bromsgrove, where just 13 per cent of families are in problem debt.

Redditch MP Karen Lumley said: "It is of course deeply concerning that so many children are living in households saddled with debt. Unfortunately when our country was in recession people were unable to make ends meet and turned to borrowing.

"As a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People I'm committed to ensuring young people are equipped to make informed financial decisions. I'm pleased that the Government plans to introduce financial education to the school curriculum. The new curriculum will see elements of personal finance included in both mathematics and citizenship education. This is something I have been campaigning for for a long time now.

"We must ensure children and future generations have a good grasp of finance. This is vital in reducing personal debt levels and creating a more sustainable economy."

Moira Morris, manager of Redditch Citizen's Advice Bureau, said: "We expect following the role out of further welfare reforms to be introduced this year that loss in income due to benefit changes will increase debts as families on low incomes try to manage their reduced incomes.

"Help can be accessed through the CAB Advice Line, at the Redditch Children’s Centres and via Redditch Council housing services. Judith Willis is the lead for the Early Help Programme in Redditch, (midwives, GPs, social workers, Redditch Children’s Centre Teams etc) and supportive services partners include Redditch CAB, NHS, Local Government, DWP and supportive charities locally who provide services and help.

"Redditch has always been reported as an area of high social inequalities in Worcestershire and the resulting debt is one of the consequences of this."

A council spokesman added: "We already hold money advice sessions with parents and work with CAB and other organisations to offer financial support where needed."

For more details on The Children's Debt Trap Campaign, and to view the interactive map, visit childrenssociety.org.uk.

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