Over 8,000 children in Islwyn and Caerphilly live with problem debt, resulting in cut backs to essentials, a charity report and MP have warned.
Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn, is concerned people could be driven to loan sharks by rising family debt and the ‘cost of living crisis’.
He made the remarks after it was discovered that over 8,000 children in Islwyn and Caerphilly live with families problem debt.
A report by the Children’s Society and the StepChange Debt Charity shows 26% of families in Islwyn and 19% of families in Caerphilly Parliamentary constituencies suffer serious debt problems, owing a total of almost £10m.
The charities said debt has a negative impact on children, who can suffer from bullying, worry and arguments within families.
They said nine out of ten families in problem debt have had to cut back on essentials including food, clothing and heating.
Mr Evans said: “These figures are deeply worrying. It is my fear that many families will be driven into the arms of loan sharks simply to make ends meet.
“I know of so many people who cannot afford the weekly shop, to put petrol in their car or clothe their children.
“The coalition needs to accept there is a cost of living crisis and do something about it.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, said: “This research exposes the shocking reality of parents lying awake at night worrying and unhappy children going without.
“Many families are feeling the squeeze and parents struggling on low wages are battling just to pay the bills.”
The statistics come as a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) report revealed they dealt with 8,724 debt problems in the last financial year in Caerphilly County Borough alone.
Debt is the second most frequent problem dealt with by the CAB in Caerphilly after benefits and tax credit, amounting to 42% of cases.
The most common debt problem was unsecured loans and the average client owed over £11,000, with seven different debts.
Meanwhile most benefit problems related to Employment and Support Allowance.
The report said: “Growing up in poverty damages children’s health and wellbeing, adversely affecting their future health and life chances as adults.
“Means-tested benefits for people of working age are no longer uprated in line with inflation, so are being cut in real terms.
“Working households in poverty now outnumber workless households in poverty, and further restrictions in benefit entitlements for disabled and ill people are being implemented.
“Advice and information from the CAB can help lift children out of poverty by increasing income and helping families to manage unaffordable debts.”
Caerphilly AM and Minister for Tackling poverty, Jeff Cuthbert, said: “Undoubtedly the welfare reforms such as the ‘Bedroom Tax’ have led to increases in personal debt and I’m glad that a future Labour government has pledged to abolish this unfair tax.
“The Welsh Government is doing all it can to get people into work. The successful Jobs Growth Wales Programme has created nearly 1,000 jobs in Caerphilly Borough.”