Working families 'panic most' at Christmas says friends 'making sure children don’t go without'

  • ITV Wales' Megan Boot reports from Penrhiwceiber, near Mountain Ash.

Over two in five people across Wales, equivalent to 1 million, will struggle to afford Christmas this year according to a recent poll.

Many children have to rely on the kindness of strangers to receive a gift during the festive period. In Penrhiwceiber, Councillor Ross Williams and his friend Anthony Trow team up each year to make sure those struggling financially do not miss out.

They started doing this long before the cost-of-living crisis and pandemic struck. It's become a "big tradition" says Councillor Ross Williams whose home looks more like Santa's Grotto. It has been filling up with presents over the past few weeks.

He has seen the difference the toy appeal makes to so many lives, but he says it’s the one role he wishes he’d be made redundant from because that would mean, “Everybody would be able to support themselves.”

Ross Williams and Anthony Trow Credit: ITV CYMRU WALES

For the past six years, Councillor Williams and Anthony, have gathered together donated gifts to pass on to those,  who otherwise, wouldn’t be getting a present.

Ross and Anthony will be wrapping hundreds of gifts with their helpers in the run-up to Christmas. Some of the presents will go to children of families who do work and those who do not have a job.

Anthony Trow says each year the community collects donated gifts to give to those in need. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Anthony told ITV Wales: “Everyone [is getting the help], there are  families who don’t work - I think that a lot of families who do work, genuine hard-working people who can’t afford Christmas - they’re the people that panic most, that are doing all they can but can’t get by.”

It means they’re in households that earn less than 60% of the average UK income.

This month’s Autumn Statement set out what the Chancellor was doing to improve the economy.

Jeremy Hunt MP, Chancellor for the Exchequer said: "We've supported families with rising bills, cut borrowing and halved inflation, rather than a recession, the economy has grown, rather than falling as predicted, real incomes have risen - our plan for the British economy is working, but the work is not done."

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

But the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes told ITV Wales that she wants "more support for vulnerable children and families" and is asking the Welsh Government to "put in place emergency crisis payments, similar to the Scottish Government's child payment system". 

The Welsh Government say they "don’t have the powers to do this", instead using "the powers they do have to provide support for those most in need, including emergency household payments".

Luke Young from Citizen Advice Cymru told Sharp End: "This Christmas will be tougher than last Christmas, with rising costs and Government support for energy costs dropping back". 

A recent YouGov poll commissioned by StepChange Debt Charity found:

Vikki Brownridge, CEO at StepChange Debt Charity, said: “People, especially those with children, understandably feel pressured around Christmas time to spend money to create special moments and memories with their loved ones. However, this pressure can often encourage people to spend more than they can afford and turn to credit to cover these costs.

“Against a backdrop of almost two years of high inflation, it’s very likely that relying too heavily on credit at Christmas could lead to debt problems in the New Year. At StepChange, we see some of our busiest days during January each year, with last January being our busiest month for several years.

“We would urge those who are thinking about borrowing to cover festive costs to always carefully consider whether those credit repayments will be comfortably affordable when the New Year comes around.”

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