A WORCESTER mum has spoken out on the stress of living ‘month to month’ as new research from Action on Children warns four children in every West Midlands primary class face Christmas without warmth or fresh food.
Mel Eastwood, 34, is mum to two children under 10, and works nights at a care home. Her husband is a fabricator welder and yet despite their two full-time incomes, things are still difficult for the family financially, particularly at Christmas.
She spoke out about her family’s situation as the children’s charity revealed more than 105,000 under-10s from low-income families in the West Midlands – and almost a million across the UK – face a festive season with little to celebrate, lacking basics such as a heated home, warm winter coat or fresh food.
With so many families struggling following a decade of austerity and ongoing problems with universal credit, new research from the charity also shows parents below the breadline are able to spend on average just £2 a day per child on food and struggle to afford nutritious food vital for health and development.
Mel said: “We’re living month to month. As neither of us get sick pay, if one of us has to miss work, we lose the earnings and know we’ll struggle next month – I’m often left with no option but use emergency annual leave or to go to work poorly.
“We can’t afford the deposit to buy a house and are not eligible for a council housing because we’re working, so we’re at the mercy of private landlords.
“Rents have gone up and up in recent years, and houses we’ve been living in have been sold from under us – we’ve had to move home several times, and that’s so disruptive for the kids.”
Mel puts a little money aside every month to save for Christmas but stresses about being able to afford even just modest presents for her children.
“I’ve always been a big believer in teaching my children about the value of money from an early age and we’re always talking to them about how to spend their pocket money carefully. Put simply, if we can’t afford something, we don’t buy it.”
After hearing about the financial struggles other local parents were having, Mel, staff and volunteers from Worcester Community Trust decided to start up a breakfast and lunch holiday food club at their centre earlier this year.
Collecting near end of life food from shops and supermarkets, Mel and the team provide hot meals free of charge to families during the Christmas and summer holidays.
Mel said: “One of the ladies that comes to my toddler group, we talked about the six-week summer holiday. She said she dreads it as she had to put extra food on the table.
“Some families are understandable hesitant to come in, but I always tell them ‘pride doesn’t put food in your belly.’”