Working parents likely to take on more work this Christmas among energy bill concerns

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 this Christmas.

Working parents likely to take on more work this Christmas among energy bill concerns

And a third (32%) 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, nine in ten (90%) say they are likely to miss out on at least one key family moment like waking up on Christmas morning together, unwrapping presents together on Christmas Day or attending a school nativity play.

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 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 working parents’ top five money worries this Christmas were:

  1. the rise in energy bills (76%)
  2. rising prices (75%)
  3. price of food (67%)
  4. car fuel costs (65%), and
  5. affording warm winter clothing for their family (48%).

More than three in ten (31%) 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 (36%) plan to cut back on celebrations and parties, nearly three in ten (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.

This Christmas looks especially challenging for working parents on Universal Credit 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 food bank 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 more than a third (36%) of parents 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 of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, 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.

“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.”

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