Christmas time brings home the difference between the priorities and experiences of rich and poor kids. In Austerity Britain today we know that most families are struggling - both those in the squeezed middle and the low income and disadvantaged and vulnerable families we work with here at Family Action.
Life is tough for families with rising food prices and fuel increases putting family budgets under strain. For some of the poorest families, this mix of rising prices and cuts to welfare and in work support is putting extreme pressure on family finances and the ability of parents to provide for their children. We know from previous research that some of the families we support have around £2 per person per day to spend on food after they've put a roof over their heads and electricity in the meter. And with the full brunt of welfare cuts hitting next year families will face no respite with next Christmas forecast to be even more of a struggle.
Our parents are telling us that Christmas is a time of pressure for them as they seek to meet the perceived expectations of their children. However, for our Christmas report this year at Family Action we've focused on what children want, to get their voice heard and to highlight what they think is most important at Christmas.
Our All I Want for Christmas Report is both heartening and disheartening. On the one hand it illustrates the importance that children place on family time at Christmas. The children and young people in our services that we spoke to overwhelmingly picked Spending Time with Family as their top priority this Christmas over receiving Any Present. However, whilst this will take some pressure off parents trying to get everything on their kids Christmas lists it also shows the lack of expectations that low income children have today about getting a specific present they have asked for this year in the face of the struggle mums and dads are having to balance the family books.
The children in our report are telling parents that the way to make Christmas special for them is to make time for them and to give them an experience they never forget - it's about decorating the family home and Christmas tree together or cooking a special Christmas dinner or gathering round the TV to watch a DVD.
The disadvantaged and vulnerable parents we support are resourceful and enterprising when it comes to making Christmas special - you can read their tips are part of this report. So whilst it is tough to read about children feeling left out as their friends at school get the best new Christmas gifts and gadgets this report is also a reminder that family values are safe and well with the children and families we work with.