16/02/2012 01:41 GMT

Netmums Survey Reveals 'Shocking' Picture Of Squeezed Families Using Payday Loans And Loan Sharks

One in 100 families has turned to loan sharks to stay afloat, according to a survey published on Thursday. The research paints a bleak picture of declining living standards in Britain.

Parenting website Netmums, which surveyed more than 2,000 mothers, found over 70% were financially "on the edge", 61% said they were short of cash every week, and 20% were missing meals so their children could eat.

Alex MacDermott, Debt Policy Officer at Citizens Advice, told The Huffington Post UK that the news was "of real concern" for families.

He said: "Many people are struggling but this research reminds us that families are particularly vulnerable to living on the edge and that the impacts for those with children can be especially desperate.

"It's a real concern if families are using loan sharks and putting themselves in a very dangerous position.

"If you're thinking of going to a loan shark because you're already in debt and worried about how you're going to pay it back, or struggling to pay essential bills - don't!"

The survey also revealed that 5% of mums used payday loans - Citizens Advice say they have seen a "four-fold increase" in the number of people coming to them for debt advice with.

"We are concerned that some of the people we are seeing seem to be using payday loans to deal with existing financial difficulties,” said MacDermott, adding that “40% of people we see with payday loan debt have another high-cost credit loan and on average, CAB clients with payday loan debts had eight debts, while those without payday loans had five."

Netmums founder Sally Russell said the poll painted a "shocking" picture of family life in Britain.

"It's shocking that seven in 10 families in the UK today are living on the edge of existence - but it's a crisis that needs exposing,” she said.

"Mums shouldn't be missing meals to feed their children or turning to loan sharks in modern Britain.

"Family finances are so strained that any more pressure will turn this personal crisis into a catastrophe for the nation."

The survey follows a warning from housing charity shelter last month that nearly seven million Britons are risking a "spiral of debt" through using credit cards, overdrafts and payday loans to pay off their rent or mortgage.