Food or housing? Parents' dilemma

More than a third of working parents are cutting back on food and essentials in order to be able to pay their rent or mortgage, according to a Yougov survey conducted by the charity Shelter.

The survey also found that one in ten parents have to skip meals in order to pay for their homes. Over a million parents have put off buying their children new shoes, while almost 10% had to delay buying them a new school uniform for the autumn term.

This unfortunate situation comes as no surprise, since according to the government’s most recent English Housing Survey, households are spending an average of 28% of their weekly income on housing costs alone. For private householders alone, this increases to 40%.

Katherine, mother of two from Essex, is one of the people facing this dilemma. She and her husband miss breakfast, and evening meals several times a month, to help with the mortgage. “We’ve really had to cut back on the basics, and I even had to send our daughter to school in an old uniform that I knew was too small; it made me feel horrible. We are already at breaking point, so I honestly don’t know what we’d do if our financial situation got worse; it really frightens me.”

That parents have to go without food to keep their homes and raise their children is a shocking reality. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘No matter how hard ordinary families work, with housing swallowing so much of their monthly budget, any drop in income can all too quickly put their home at serious risk. We desperately need the government to make sure there is a safety net that’s strong enough to catch families who fall on hard times, and stop them from going through the tragedy of losing their home.’

More families are becoming reliant on foodbanks, as they are unable to pay for food and their homes. Donating food and other essentials to charity is a vital temporary solution, because those parents and their children can’t wait until long term changes are made. The government needs to repair the housing safety net, rather than cutting more holes in it. You can sign a Shelter petition to tell George Osbourne to do exactly this. But unfortunately, some seem reluctant to acknowledge that there is a problem. The Housing Minister Brandon Lewis has stated that ‘contrary to Shelter’s claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year,’  despite the fact that so many families are lucky not to have had their homes repossessed, being in the precarious position of not having enough money for food and rent.

Parents shouldn’t be forced to choose between food and shelter. Throughout September and October, New Hope receives donations of nonperishable food and toiletries. In so doing we’ll be supporting other charities, including the Watford FoodbankFEED and Herts Young Homeless, as well as several others.

Last year we received £50,000 worth of donations. Generosity came from local schools, churches, companies and also charitable groups and individuals. If you are part of an organisation, please also consider donating needed items to New Hope’s Harvest Appeal this autumn. The donations we receive show those who are forced to accept donations in order to avoid homelessness that society cares and hasn’t forgotten about them. You can learn how and what to donate here. Thank you in advance, and be sure to check out our Harvest Samba film, created by our staff in our Community Garden, which you can download here.

Alex Charlton