'Crippling' debt leaving more families hungry than ever

Published 04 April 2014  |  
(PA)

A leading Christian debt charity has released statistics supporting claims that poverty levels in the UK are rising.

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) provides free services and support to those battling debt problems through its centres in over 200 towns and cities across Britain.

It undertook a study of 1,600 of its clients in the hopes of better understanding the real consequences of food poverty.

The findings reveal almost a third (32 per cent) of those asked had been forced to survive on a food budget of less than £10 a week, while 67 per cent of those with children admitted they had not been able to afford basic necessities such as three meals a day, clothes and shoes.

A staggering 70 per cent had sacrificed meals to pay off debts, with over a quarter (26 per cent) of all those asked doing so regularly.

Chief Executive of CAP Matt Barlow says that small debts often spiral out of control, which is why so many families are finding themselves in trouble.

"Debt can be crippling for individuals and families already on low incomes," he said.

"A few simple changes in life circumstances such as job loss, relationship breakdown or benefit overpayment and it can be very hard to climb out of that debt trap without specialist help.

"Clearly, we are concerned that these problems are escalating for those who don't call for help," he added.

The level of poverty in the UK is a growing issue, with foodbanks reporting an escalation in the number of those relying on their services, and more than 5,500 people suffering with malnutrition being admitted to hospitals last year. This has led many organisations, charities and church leaders to call on the Government to act urgently to address the issue.

An End Hunger Fast campaign was launched in February and thousands of people pledged to fast today in solidarity with those who are regularly forced to go without food. Campaigners are also being encouraged to support their local foodbank, lobby their MP, and write to Secretary of Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith about their concerns.

CAP is responding to the increased demand by expanding its presence across the UK, opening up 15 more debt centres in the past month alone.

One client from Crewe shared that the charity has been able to help relieve her of huge financial difficulties.

"Before CAP got involved, I was struggling with my money; who to pay and what I could afford. I was worrying about how to pay for the main things eg food and clothes for my son. Also, I was worrying every time a letter came through the door and what they would say and do," she said.

"But now, I don't receive any letters and I don't worry as much."

The Trussell Trust, which runs nearly 400 foodbanks across Britain, is set to release new statistics that will offer further insights into the escalating crisis later this month.

Labour MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro are currently leading a parliamentary inquiry into food poverty in the UK. Experts hope that it will allow the leading political figures to better help the most vulnerable members of society.

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