We know from our work with disadvantaged and vulnerable families that there are certain key pinch points when there is even more pressure that usual on tight family budgets. Family Action's Breaking the Bank series investigates these key moments throughout the year and the problems that families experience as a result of shrinking family budgets.
Our latest report Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring highlights powerfully the plight of families and children facing a summer stuck at home. The key findings of the report, including polling and focus group research show that parents from the poorest through to the squeezed middle are planning to cut back on days out this year. 54% of parents polled say they will cut back on the number of trips they have due to rising prices and cuts to income for parents in and out of work.
Government statistics shows that a week's family holiday is out of reach for the majority of children in low income families which is borne out by the voices of the families in this report. The ability of children to access at least a week's annual holiday away from home with their families is one of the indicators used by government to estimate material deprivation in childhood. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Minimum Income Standard also highlights a week away from home as an essential part of everyday life. The latest 2012 Households Below Average Income survey shows that children in 62% of the poorest families in the very bottom income quintile want but can't afford a week's holiday compared with 6% of those in well off families. This figure is 51% for those children in the second quintile.
Whilst those in the upper income groups can still expect that a week's holiday in the UK forms part of a minimum standard of living the vast majority of the families we support will be lucky to get out of their own community for the day this summer let alone having the financial means to get away for a week. Giving families a chance for leisure time away from home matters because research suggests the gaps in cognitive development between high and low income children may open up because the latter do not get the same opportunity to experience new things and develop social skills outside the family home.
Parents rated entry costs to attractions, travel and food costs as the main barriers to family days outside their area. They railed at holiday operators and attraction owners for unfair and inflexible pricing structures which mean that some many, the cost of one day trip to a theme park meets or exceeds their family food budget for the week. And our parents, many of whom are amongst the poorest want their children to have special memories about fantastic days out like other kids.
This report underlines why relative poverty matters in Britain today - it gives real examples of parents struggling to provide for their children and ensure that they have an opportunity to share in experiences their peers take for granted. These families face summer on a shoestring. It's time we saw action to protect income and ensure all children get the same opportunities in life.
You can read a copy of our report Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring on our website here. We are grateful to parenting club, Bounty, for allowing us to use their UK wide Word of Mum panel for polling, which supports the voice of our parents in this report.
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