Nearly a third (32%) of working parents plan to take on extra work or avoid taking time off over the festive period to cover the cost of Christmas, a charity has found.
Of these, nine in 10 (90%) expect to miss out on at least one key family moment, such as waking up together on Christmas morning, unwrapping presents or attending a school nativity play, Action for Children found.
The charity published the findings of its UK-wide survey of 2,500 working parents and 1,000 children aged eight to 17 as it launched its Secret Santa campaign to help vulnerable children – at https://www.actionforchildren.org.uk/support-us/make-a-donation/appeals/secret-santa/
More than three in 10 (31%) working parents said they are likely to give their children everyday basics, such as school books, shoes or a coat, for their main Christmas present this year.
Over a third (36%) plan to cut back on celebrations and parties, nearly three in 10 (29%) will save on presents for their partner, and a quarter (25%) will spend less on Christmas food and travelling to visit friends and family.
Among parents on Universal Credit, nearly two in five (38%) are likely to cut back on heating, almost a third (30%) expect to skip meals and a fifth (20%) will be likely to need to seek help from a food bank over the break, the survey found.
Parents’ top five money worries this Christmas, according to Action for Children:
1. The rise in energy bills
2. Rising prices generally
3. The price of food
4. Car fuel costs
5. Affording warm winter clothing for the family
The charity highlighted the case of factory worker Natalia, 35, who lives with her one-year-old daughter in Norfolk.
Natalia, who claims Universal Credit, said: “I do everything I can to buy as cheap as possible and save costs wherever I can.
“I always pay all the bills as soon as I’ve been paid but what’s left is so hard to spread over the month. Now, I’ve lost £20 a week in Universal Credit – that’s such a lot of money to me.
“I’m really worried about the bills going up. I’m only turning on the heating in the living room now it’s got colder.”
Mother-of-three Michelle, whose husband Adam was made redundant during the coronavirus pandemic, said: “For the first year ever, Adam and I are not buying each other anything for a Christmas present – it’s depressing for us, but we wanted to make sure we’re making it as special as possible for the girls.
“It’s the rising energy bills, fuel and food prices that mean it’s becoming more and more difficult to stretch what’s left every month.”
Asked about their parents’ biggest fears this Christmas, the majority of children (63%) thought they would be worried about making Christmas a happy time for their family, more than half (53%) said they would be concerned about keeping their family safe and healthy against the backdrop of Covid-19, and nearly half (49%) said they would be anxious about making sure everyone has presents.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “For most of us the festive season is a happy time, but there are children all over 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.”