Parents 'missing meals' to pay rent

Father paying bills with family behind him

An estimated 880,000 working parents in England have resorted to skipping meals in the last year in order to cover their mortgage or rent, according to research from Shelter.

The charity said that 10.5% of working adults with children said they or their partner had missed meals in the last 12 months to help pay for their home, equating to 880,000 parents, if the figures are projected across the country.

Working parents with children aged under 18 were asked about steps they had had to take over the last year in order to meet their housing costs.

The charity found that more than one third (37%) of working parents were generally cutting back on buying food in a bid to help pay their rent or mortgage, equating to three million parents across England as a whole.

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Some 13% of working parents surveyed, equating to 1.1 million parents across England, said they had put off buying their children new shoes, while 10%, or around 820,000 parents across the country, delayed buying their children a new school uniform in the last year so that they could pay their rent or mortgage.

The Government's English Housing Survey recently showed that households were spending 28% of their weekly income on housing costs alone, rising to 40% for private renters.

Shelter quoted a woman named Katherine who lives in Essex with her husband and their two young children. Both parents work full-time.

Katherine said: "My husband and I don't have breakfast because we can't afford it, and we miss evening meals two or three 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."

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The latest figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) showed that the number of households having their homes repossessed in the UK fell to 11,800 in the first half of this year, marking the lowest six-monthly tally seen since the second half of 2006.

But mounting speculation over exactly when the Bank of England base rate will start to rise from its 0.5% historic low has prompted calls for those who are just about getting by now and feel worried about the prospect of the cost of borrowing becoming more expensive to get help.

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Parents 'missing meals' to pay rent

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Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: "No parent should be forced to choose between putting food on the table and paying for the roof over their children's heads.

"These shocking figures show that millions of us are having to make these kind of agonising choices every day.

"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."

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More than 10,000 people took part in the research for Shelter.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: "Contrary to Shelter's claims, repossessions are actually at their lowest since 2007 and down almost a third since last year.

"Our efforts to tackle the record deficit we inherited have helped keep interest rates at a record low, meaning home ownership is at its most affordable since 2007 while private rent levels are falling in real terms.

"On top of this, we've got Britain building, with nearly half a million new homes delivered since 2010, including nearly 200,000 affordable homes, and almost 40,000 new home owners have been created through the Help to Buy schemes."

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