Last month, new research from comparison site finder.com.au found that, one in three Australians, that’s 7.2 million people have entered 2020 with Christmas debt. That debt burden hits many families hardest in February, when, just like Sarah, back-to-school expenses such as uniforms, stationery and even lunches become all too much.
Sarah never had to worry about providing for her kids — she’d been a financially independent single mum for a long time. But one day things suddenly changed for her family.
“I was working at Woolworths and everything was great, that was until I fell sick. I had to quit my job, and everything slowly fell behind. My daughter Georgia did kickboxing for 10 years, but she had to stop doing that. Riley couldn’t do his swimming lessons. It was really hard; I couldn’t afford petrol to go shopping or get snacks to put in the kids’ lunchboxes. It was really depressing and made me feel like a failure. I was living on food vouchers and all the bills were falling behind.”
First, she had to sacrifice after-school activities that the kids loved but were no longer affordable. Before long, Sarah was facing poverty, unable to meet even basic needs. Sarah had lots of friends, but they had their own families to look after. She didn’t feel like she could ask them for help or tell them how much she was struggling – leading to more isolation.
“We would have to sit out of activities with friends who would take the kids to parks or other places that I couldn’t afford to even drive to, let alone pay to get in and provide lunches for. It felt bad to always have to say no to the kids and our friends. I got to a point where I thought I might have to send my kids away to live with their dad which was pretty heart breaking.”
As a loving mum, Sarah wants to provide the best she can for her kids. Unfortunately, the pressure to provide a memorable Christmas leaves many young Aussie families with credit card debt that snowballs. And as a result, kids are robbed of their full potential and parents feel shame and anxiety.
“The child health nurse suggested that I call Christians Against Poverty, but I was really apprehensive at first. I wasn’t sure that CAP would be able to help because I had personal loan and a credit card to pay off and a house that I could no longer afford to pay for, but it was really fantastic. My debt coach, Vanessa, was able to work with my benefits from Centrelink and child support and CAP was able to use what I was receiving.
“I’m on my way to being debt free.”
Through her local church, Sarah, like all CAP Debt Help clients, was assisted in putting small amounts of money away for things like school fees, car registration and Christmas gifts, all while paying off debt. By working with CAP, no longer will these events have the power to push clients and their kids down into poverty. Now is the best opportunity to help families set up well for the year while kids are going back to school.
I would encourage you, if your heart is moved by the plight of the poor in Australia, head over to our website to find out what you and your church can do.
CEO, Christians Against Poverty