One in five families with children at home ‘have taken a payment holiday’

Families with children living at home are twice as likely to say they have taken a payment holiday than households without children, according to a survey into the financial impact of coronavirus.

Around one in five (21%) families with children at home have taken a payment holiday, comparethemarket.com’s latest household financial confidence tracker found.

This compares with around one in 10 (9%) households without children at home.

Common debt payment freezes people have requested include mortgage payments and other household bills, credit card debts and personal loans.

On top of payment holidays, 11% of families with children at home have taken out additional debt such as credit cards or personal loans to manage their finances during the pandemic, the survey from May 29 to 31 found.

On Tuesday, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed that borrowers who are taking a three-month mortgage payment holiday can extend it for another three months if they need to, or start making reduced payments.

People yet to apply for a mortgage payment holiday have until October 31.

The FCA has said other consumer credit product guidance will be updated in due course.

Anna McEntee, product director at comparethemarket.com, said: “These figures will spark concern that families with children are at a higher risk of taking on unsustainable amounts of debt as the economic impact of the pandemic hits their finances, especially as many payment freeze periods are now coming to an end.

“The Government – and indeed many financial services companies – have done a huge amount to help households financially during this difficult time.

“However, the combination of deferred payments and additional borrowing which will need to be paid back could cause problems for many families over the coming months. If interest accrues on these debts, households may be faced with hefty bills they were not expecting.

“It is important to only make use of payment holidays on mortgages and other household bills if you absolutely have to.”

Comparethemarket.com’s weekly tracker also found 26% of families with children had struggled to pay their bills over the previous seven days, up from 23% a week earlier.

This compares with 15% of households without children at home.

Nearly a third (30%) of families with children think the economic hit from Covid-19 will force them to cut back or make sacrifices for six to 12 months after the lockdown eventually ends, compared with 19% of households without children at home.

The proportion of households across the UK saying their working circumstances have changed for the worse also increased, the survey of more than 2,000 people found.

When asked why they were not confident that they would be able to juggle bills over the coming weeks, over four in 10 (41%) said that it was because their employment status had deteriorated, for example they had been furloughed, received a pay cut or lost their job.

This was an increase from 37% who said this the previous week.

Nearly six in 10 (59%) 18 to 24-year-olds reported a negative change to their employment status.

Nearly half (48%) of this age group said that their income is not enough to cover their outgoings currently and a quarter (25%) have recently dipped into savings to tide themselves over financially.

While lockdown rules are being gradually relaxed, the survey found that the proportion of people saying they would not be confident visiting cafes, bars and pubs when they reopen has increased for the sixth week in a row, to nearly six in 10 (56%) – up from 54% the previous week.

The primary reason for this is anxiety, the research suggests, with nearly half (48%) of people saying they would not feel in control of their surroundings and therefore would not enjoy themselves.

Ms McEntee continued: “The UK clearly does not feel comfortable going out to restaurants, cafes and pubs.

“Household financial confidence is still low and many families appear more concerned about paying the bills rather than returning to pre-lockdown life.

“This hesitancy to get out and spend could have a significant impact on getting the economy back on its feet.”

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