Families face summer on a shoestring
Families face summer on a shoestring after a new report from charity Family Action warns that summer leisure activities, including day trips, are increasingly out of reach for the poorest children and those in the squeezed middle. With the summer holidays starting next week Family Action's Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring report warns that many parents will struggle to meet their children's expectations and families will be stuck at home with little chance of day trips or a week away. The causes are prices rises and cuts to welfare support for those in and out of work. The report highlights the stark contrast in the quality of life experience between rich and poor children.
Family Action carried out focus groups with a snapshot of the vulnerable and disadvantaged families they support across England for Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring as well as commissioning national polling by Bounty UK to survey 2,214 members of its Word of Mum panel to better understand the pressures of the summer holidays on families across the income scale in England, Scotland and Wales.
"I've never been on holiday with my children. I can't afford it" (Parent from Hackney)
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 per cent for those children in the second quintile.
Family Action's Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring report finds that:
54% of families polled said they were cutting back on day trips this year due to a drop in family income or because family days out have become more expensive, with the squeezed middle and low income families most likely to reduce summer activities because of pressures on the family budget.
The vast majority of families think children and families benefit from days out by spending time together, having fun and children learning new things.
Most families polled will have at least one day out this summer although there are indications that those on lower incomes are less likely to do so. Some low income families in focus group interviews said they had no expectation of a day trip outside their town or city.
According to the polling the average cost of a family day trip is £80 up from £50 in a similar survey last year. This figure is equivalent to the average weekly food shop for families.
Parents in London expected to pay more for day trips alongside those with more children.
Low income parents in focus groups were concerned that budget reductions meant a lot of summer play schemes and community activities for children had been cut back.
Families on the lowest incomes will be stuck at home this summer with tensions rising as parents are unable to meet their children's expectations with little prospect of more than one day out in six weeks to ease boredom and defuse family pressures.
Families commented in polling and focus groups that the biggest expense for days out was entry fees with parents also raising concerns about the cost of transport and eating out. Parents said that they would pay for day trips from the family budget, squeezing other spending so that their children had a positive experience. Low income families in focus groups criticised holiday companies and attractions for unfair pricing structures and raising prices over the summer months which put day trips and holidays out of reach.
Family Action Chief Executive Helen Dent said: "Families are facing summer on a shoestring with parents and children cooped up at home as a result of falling incomes and raising prices. We know that children get a boost from days out - including to their educational development. However, this year many parents are so worried that summer day trips will break the bank that they're cutting back. We're calling for rip off holiday firms and attractions to stop unfair pricing and improve family offers all year round and for Government to recognise the plight families are facing and protect their incomes."