Posted: 26 August 2014

When debt leaves a scar

Why do you support The Children’s Society?

As a child, I experienced first-hand the devastating effects of poverty. The Children’s Society is doing valuable work with the StepChange charity to address the problem of debt on families with children, which traps them in a downward spiral of borrowing – and I want to show my support.

What impact did debt have on you?

My father owned a shop that was the social centre of a very poor community. But when he died, we discovered he only had £10 in the bank. The family rallied around for a bit, but it put a lot of strain on my mother, and eventually she had a nervous breakdown. We lost our things almost overnight. Though we lived off her widow’s pension, sometimes it got so bad that I remember having to go across the road to the fish and chip shop to get the leftover batter bits for our tea – it was a real struggle. The sense and fear of poverty has driven me on in one sense, but the scars are still there.

The Debt Trap report found that 2.5 million children in the UK live in families experiencing
debt problems. What do you think about that?

It’s shameful that families are getting put food in their children’s mouths and to fund the basics of life. If you expose a child to that level of
poverty, it will stay with them for the rest of their lives. I’ve been through it and I know that it’s a mark that you cannot erase, and we need to try and address it.

What impact do you think debt has on children?

In order to survive, you have to eat. Children from families with debt risk suffering from diseases like rickets and malnutrition that we shouldn’t see today. There’s also the psychological disease of poverty. You can get rid of rickets with Vitamin D, but you can’t get rid of the scars of poverty that run from generation to generation. It has to stop somewhere.

A third of families had to borrow money to pay for essentials for their children in the past year. How does this make you feel?

You cannot underestimate the stress that is caused by poverty. I’ve witnessed that with my own mother. I think it’s unbelievable that we’re still seeing this fundamental problem of children being unable to eat because their parents can’t afford to feed them. I just hope The Debt Trap campaign changes how people in the UK view families affected by debt.

You can help

Every day, children are affected by their family’s problem debt. To stop this, we need your help. Please visit to support The Debt Trap campaign today

By Matthew Reed - Leadership team