The Children’s Society Debt Trap Campaign: My Story

I came across The Children’s Society Debt Trap campaign last week during the UK Money Bloggers weekly live Twitter discussion, Monday Money.

It struck a nerve immediately, and to be honesty it brought back some hidden, painful memories.

The Debt Trap campaign is raising awareness surrounding the damage that debt can do to a child’s mental health.

A child is five times more likely to be unhappy living in a household with problem debt compared to those without.

The The Children’s Society Debt Trap is calling on the Government to create a breathing space for families, giving them time and space to repay the debt they owe without rising fees or visits from intimidating bailiffs.

So, you might be thinking by now, why does it bring up painful memories for me?

Quite simply, I was that child!

The Childrens society Debt Campaign needs our help to ask the goverment to create a breathing space for families in debt to help protect the mental health of children.

 My story

It was 1992, the UK was still in the biggest recession since the Second World War and my family’s life was about to change dramatically.

I remember coming out of school and seeing my mum waiting for me, it immediately struck me as strange, as by this point I was old enough to walk home by myself with my two brothers.

You see, we wouldn’t be going home that day, or any day for that matter, we had lost our house due to repossession.

My mum wasn’t particularly reckless with money, there just wasn’t enough of it coming in and add the massive rise in her mortgage interest rates to the equation and it became impossible to keep up with the payments bringing us up on her own.

Remember, these were the days before the minimum wage where you could be paid as little as £2.50 per hour working behind a bar, she didn’t stand a chance.

My brothers and I had absolutely no idea about her financial struggles until that day.

Mum sobbing her heart out trying to explain what had happened is something that will forever haunt me.

Moving in with my grandparents wasn’t an option as they lived too far away for us to be able to get to school everyday, so we were placed in temporary accommodation in a B&B, my mum and my two younger brothers in one room, me in a single next door.

Placed on the waiting list for a council house, it would be three horrible months before we were rehoused.

Social stigma

Dreading going into school the next day, I had concocted some elaborate story about how we had sold the house and the one we were buying had fell through and that’s why we needed to stay in temporary accommodation.

But, I needn’t have bothered.

Unbeknown to me, there was a sign stuck in our front window telling the neighbourhood what had happened – an official notice of repossession slap bang in the middle of our living room window!

Some of my friends had come knocking that day, noticed the whitewashed windows and and the sign and the news spread like wild fire.

I walked into class to hear everyone discussing it, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole, I was absolutely mortified.

The moment break time arrived I literally walked off the premises, teachers were chasing me all around the estate trying to get me back in school – I was already starting to go off the rails after just one morning.

I’m not the type of person who cries when they’re feeling down, I get angry, not as much these days, but certainly as a child.

This type of behaviour carried on for the next year until I drove my mum to breaking point.

Watching her break down in tears with my teacher was the kick in the ass I needed, I couldn’t believe I’d upset my own mum so much and I started to settle down a bit.

The crazy thing is, it never even occurred to me at the time it anything to do with the repossession.

It was affecting my mental health and my education, I was just 11 years old and didn’t fully understand why I was behaving like that.

We finally moved on Christmas Eve that year, you’d think that would be stressful, it was utter relief in reality.

Looking back

When I look back on that situation now I can see what it really did to me.

Us Taylor’s don’t give much away, we’re not talkers when it comes to issues and problems we find ourselves with, we close ranks and crack on.

My mental health suffered as a consequence of what happened.

Could it have been avoided?

Yes, absolutely.

The house was gone, we knew that, it would be a while before it sold so why make three children and a single mother move out?

Giving my family the breathing space, The Children’s Society Debt Trap campaign is looking for, in this instance would have made a massive difference.

We could have moved out when a council house had become available, rather than a B&B with addicts and petty thieves (my bike was stolen whilst we were staying there!)

The annoying thing is the house didn’t sell for another four months after we had left the B&B, we could have stayed and still been out in time for the new owners to move in.

It was horrendous for my mum, she didn’t need that on top of everything else she was going through, which is why she is and always will be my hero, standing strong no matter what cards life dealt her.

How you can help with The Children’s Society Debt Trap campaign

I’m asking you all for a small favour.

Please take a couple of minutes to sign the petition.

We need as many people as possible to sign the petition and show their support for a breathing space to help prevent the damage that debt is doing to children, and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same!

Please share this article to help The Children’s Society Debt Trap campaign, your help can make all the difference.

Thinking Thrifty

Thinking Thrifty

David Naylor is the editor of the Thinking Thrifty blog. An award winning personal finance and lifestyle blogger, he shows how it is possible to live extremely well for less.
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16 thoughts on “The Children’s Society Debt Trap Campaign: My Story

    1. Thanks Francesca. Looking back I’m glad I’ve seen life from both sides. I lived in the big posh house for half of my childhood and the other half was spent on a council estate. It made me what I am today, I got my head down, worked hard and didn’t expect anything in life to be given to me on a plate.

  1. My parents were never in debt, but they were pretty poor, hard working mind, and had low aspirations. They were both younger children and had been bullied by their siblings. That badly affected me, especially the aspirations part, and that self esteem thing is still there, well hidden now, but still lurking.
    I can’t write about it as Mum is still with us and reads what I write
    Things in our childhood can be lifelong things, affecting what we think, say and do, long after we are grown up

    1. I completely agree. My brother’s both struggle socially, a bit of a family trait on my mum’s side. That’s one where I have bucked the trend and am a bit more like my dad’s side of the family, I’ve always been outgoing and found it easy to mix and make friends. The main difference with me is aspiration, I’ve never been happy with my lot unlike my brothers who have little to no ambition. I’ve never been overly keen on being told what to do so I’ve always got my head down and worked my way into management, or have been self employed. You really are molded by your surroundings when you’re younger. I moved out very young and I think it was the best thing for me, it made me hungry to succeed and determined not to go back with my tail between my legs as everyone was expecting!

    1. Thanks so much. It was hard dredging all that up again, but this campaign has really struck a chord with me, it’s very close to home!

  2. This is such a moving article. What a great charity to raise awareness for too. I wasn’t aware of this campaign before but it sounds like they are doing great things. Will look out for more of their work.

    1. Yeah, it’s a cause close to my heart. A child’s mental health shouldn’t have to suffer because of problem debt. Breathing space is needed.

  3. This is really sad. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. I found debt affected my mental health and that was when I was an adult. I can’t imagine the effects it would have to a child who possibly didn’t fully understand what was going on.

    1. It was hard, but what doesn’t kill you and all that. The one great thing that came from it is I have never been in any debt my whole life. I wasn’t very good at managing once upon a time, but i never got to the point of borrowing. It pretty much shaped my relationship with money!

  4. So sorry to hear you and your family went through this. The effects of debt can definitely have an impact on any age, so the campaign sounds very worthwhile – thanks for highlighting it.

  5. I’m really sorry you went through this David-it’s so sad that even nowadays children are suffering because of this and really they shouldn’t need to be, there should be a proper system in place to prevent things getting this hard for people! I admire you for speaking up about it and telling your story x
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  6. It’s courageous to share your story, and I’m so happy that it ends with you making really good decisions to better your path! My mom also lost a house after it was repossessed as well, and she didn’t get out of bed for months and months afterwards. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for her – and for your mom.

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