26/06/2012 02:15 BST

British Families 'On The Brink', Think Tank Claims

On Mondays, Tuesday and Wednesdays Linda* and her partner have to choose between food for themselves or their three-year-old son.

Her fiance Joe, 26, has been on antidepressants since being made redundant three months after the birth of their child, in Christmas 2008.

Although he has since returned to work in the construction industry, his pay has been cut "considerably." Linda and Joe are self-employed and, as she puts it "stretched to our limits."

"I don't always have lunch. My husband doesn't always have lunch. The main person is our little child," the 31-year-old child minder tells The Huffington Post UK.

austerity britain

A new report suggests families are being pushed to breaking point because of the state of their finances

"We've only got one child and my other half earns over the threshold for our child tax credit [under new guidelines families earning over £26,000 per year are exempt] so that will stop in July.

"It's horrible, it's really horrible and the worst thing is you go and buy your food, and obviously we have a really strict budget and you have a three-year-old saying 'can I have this' and you're constantly saying no, down to a magazine. I don't see it getting better at the moment."

Linda and Joe are just one of the 20% of families who feel unable to cope in the financial downturn, according to research by Scottish Widows think tank the Centre for the Modern Family out on Tuesday.

According to the research one in five people in families say they are just "getting by", and barely dealing with the increasing cost of living.

Looking at 1,500 adults, the research revealed the "increasingly desperate" measures being taken to cope with the impact of recession, creating a group of "on the brink" Britons.

Many young people were selling their possessions online to make cash and 18-34 year olds were twice as likely than those in other age groups to take out a payday loan.

The chair of the think tank Lord Leitch said their findings painted "a stark and in some cases desperate picture of family life in Britain."

For Linda and Joe, the effects of the recession are almost like going "back in time."

"When I was born and when my other half was born, both our parents worked in construction and they were made redundant when we were first born. It's almost like we've gone back to the 1980s," she says.

Cat Price, a 33-year-old mother-of-two who works in the NHS said she and her partner had no "safety net."

Price, who spends 60% of her salary on her childcare told The Huffington Post UK: "If everything stays the same we're just managing. As long as nothing happens, but that's the problem. We are that kind of hair's breath away from really significant problems. That's a common theme across my friends. We couldn't really weather it."

Sociologist and Centre for the Modern Family panel member, Professor Laurie Taylor of Birkbeck College, University of London said: “Family still remains the bedrock of our society and not just among the older generations but for young people too who are more and more relying on parents for emotional and financial support. 

"Times may be tough but we should feel comforted by the fact that family is still seen as a haven in today’s society.”

*Some names have been changed