Unhappy families: UK is third worst in Europe for home life

NegrophobeNegrophobe Regular
edited May 2011 in Spurious Generalities
Government has let down parents and children as debts and long working hours exact a major toll on Britons, says new research

By Jonathan Owen
Sunday, 22 May 2011

Britain is one of the worst countries in Europe for families, according to a study released today by the Relationships Foundation. High levels of debt and poverty, coupled with long and unsocial working hours, are major contributing factors, the report, Family Pressure Gauge, reveals.

Its research paints a picture of a country where, in stark contrast to David Cameron's pledge to make Britain the "most family-friendly" nation in the world, British families are among the most pressured in Europe, only ahead of Bulgaria and Romania.

Stress from money and work worries, along with a lack of support for parents and poor living conditions, are all factors, the report finds. It recommends urgent reform to the way families are helped, with one in five families struggling to make ends meet.

The report also reveals that 14 per cent of families are suffering "critical" levels of debt, compared to 1 per cent of Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian households.

In addition, almost a quarter of the average British working family income goes on childcare costs – double the percentage spent by French families and three times that for German families.

One in seven families spend more than 40 per cent of their income on the rent or a mortgage. In contrast, just 1.8 per cent of the French population are in this situation.

Britain also ranks as the second worst country in Europe for maternity and paternity leave, with new parents receiving less than ten weeks fully paid time off on average.

One in 20, or 340,800, British families live in "severe housing deprivation" – in overcrowded homes in poor condition, without a bath, shower or indoor toilet, for example. This is 12 times more than in the Netherlands, and significantly worse than in the Nordic countries, Germany and Spain.

The report provides the most comprehensive picture to date of how British families fare compared with counterparts in 26 European countries, based on an analysis of 25 indicators, including pressures of money, work, parenting and living conditions. It draws on data from the European Union, the Organisation for Economic

Co-operation and Development and the European Commission.

Although work is seen as a route out of poverty, it can also be a source of additional pressure, with Britons working some of the longest hours in Europe – on average, 43 a week.

Long working hours can affect health and time for family relationships, according to the report. It states that 78 per cent of British workers do not have flexible working hours.

It accuses the Government of a lack of focus on its family agenda, noting that the Childhood and Families task force, set up in June last year, had "delivered nothing", that pledges on flexible working had been "reneged upon", with a Budget that "did little to engage with pressures on families". It added that the plight of families, already buckling under the strain of debts, is set to worsen.

This comes at a time when a record 2.1 million children in Britain live in poverty, despite the fact that one or both of their parents work, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The figure has soared by 400,000 in the past five years, undermining the mantra that people can work their way out of poverty.

The Government's "warm words on family friendliness are fast becoming cold comfort," according to Michael Trend, executive director of the Relationships Foundation.

He added: "Sideline family policy and you court systemic failure... A year on from the general election, it is time the Government got its act together on family policy."

Rhian Beynon, head of policy at Family Action, warned: "Changes to welfare support and high inflation mean that family finances are increasingly tight, placing a strain on families. If the Government doesn't sort this out the pressure on families will only increase."

'We're under such pressure'

Former IT manager Stephen Russell, 53, lives in Cheltenham with his wife, Susan, 50, and children Lauren, 25, Ethan, 17, and Eleanor, 16

"I worked in IT for 17 years and was unexpectedly made redundant last summer. We had a daughter going through university, and losing my job was one squeeze too far. We had developed debt over the years, making some financial mistakes like so many do, with one too many credit cards, things like that. We aren't drinkers, don't gamble or go on foreign holidays; we don't run an expensive car. We live fairly simple lives but it's got expensive. The mortgage is the killer. We owe £160,000 and are paying the interest only right now. We also have debts of about £32,000 – it sounds horrendous every time I say it. I work as a night carer for a 97-year-old lady, something of a turnaround. I needed to prove to myself that I could generate income for the family and I didn't mind what I did.

Before, I was on a salary of about £35,000 a year plus benefits. I now earn about £350 a week – a considerable change in circumstances – and I'm working 50 hours a week for that.

My wife has two jobs and, between us, we're doing an average of 100 hours a week at the moment. Time with all of us together is unusual.

I don't think David Cameron's vision of a family-friendly Britain is realistic, but it's a great soundbite. As far as families are concerned, I think we've never been under so much pressure, both financially and economically."

'We struggle to pay the bills'

Gemma Dawson, 21, lives in Wakefield with her partner, Chris, 31, and their two young children, Summer, 15 months, and Bradley, two

"I used to be a claims adviser for a car insurance company, but I left to start up my own business selling party supplies online. The cost of childcare – about £900 a month – forced me to work from home.

I work about 10 hours a day. Chris works as a bingo caller four days a week, for 14 hours a day. He earns about £14,000 a year and at the moment I earn only around £1,000 annually because I'm still in the process of building up the business.

We struggle to pay the bills, like a lot of families.

We don't spend much time really together, maybe one night a week. The main pressure is definitely financial, to afford things, and I think money is probably the main factor we argue about. It's like we are working just to pay the bills. We scrimp by but we're not actually working to live a life."


  • RemadERemadE Global Moderator
    edited May 2011
    Bwaha, doesn't surprise me one bit. This island is down the shitter. *puts record on repeat*

    This island is down the shitter...
  • DaktologistDaktologist Global Moderator
    edited May 2011
    Sounds a lot like NZ, the niggers here are worse for family violence though. in fact they are well known for it.
  • edited May 2011
    Guess I'm lucky then. My family life is totally fine, growing up was awesome and life in general is pretty fun :) Just down the road though is an area made up of shitty council houses, housing chavvy cunts who do nothing but take drugs, steal things and then buy more drugs using their stolen money. We call the area "Skanksville" and it's been known as that since I can remember. I remember this one guy who even went as far as stabbing his own mum for some reason. He was weird.
  • DaGuruDaGuru Mite
    edited May 2011
    This sounds like a perfect commentary for America too. People spending so much time in the rat race for what? To spend a meager crumb of "quality time" here or there with the people you love the most? :( :thumbsdown:

    We have so much shit backwards in our collective psyche as a society.....it doesn't surprise me humanity is losing more touch with itself as every day passes. For millenia when you had kids...you would raise them by your side, working whatever trade and then pass it down to them. Along with that trade you would teach them morality, ethics, traditions....things that are so foreign to us nowadays because we just throw kids in schools and have little influence on them during their development years before reaching adulthood.

    Just the whole "pride" in family nowadays is completely backwards from our ancesters. It used to be good to have a big familial unit, everyone taking care of one another. Now if you are in your 20's underneath your families roof...it is somehow a "failure"...both for the parents and the kids.

    So many folks no matter their age chasing the rhetoric of "independence", and then struggle just to eek out any kind of existence. It isn't even exclusive to the younger set, as the elderly oftentimes fight going to some kind of care that isn't on their own terms or turf.

    Meh, I could go on and on...but the real point is, there are so many facets of society that have made "family" a dirty word nowadays. So many obstacles keeping families themselves apart, and while the world insists on defining "success" as status/money/achievements....as a whole we are really failing ourselves because we are losing sight of what matters most.

    Hurray, in a capitalistic society we can become different than our parents.....and possibly not just fall in line to the same old lineage of whatever trade our ancesters have done again and again before. But because we have so many choices and independence....are we really "better" either individually, or collectively as a species? :confused:
  • GoingNowhereGoingNowhere Global Moderator
    edited May 2011
    I had a happy childhood myself, only unhappy people in Britain are the immigrants and the chavs. Most normal people are alright to be honest :)

    And what DaGuru said ^^
  • edited May 2011
    Fucking chavs, I hate them all! They don't make life any easier for themselves either. They seem to think that fucking their lives up even more by bunking school, stabbing people and vandalizing cars is actually going to get them somewhere in life. Sure, it might earn you some respect on the streets or whatever the fuck it is they do now but general society looks down on it all like you're nothing more than scum (which I totally agree with)

  • dr rockerdr rocker Regular
    edited May 2011
    It is quite funny with the social situation in the UK. When the scumderclass are asked how much they think they should take home in wages per week. Considering I have a masters and have area specific qualifications of the same level, backed with a near decade experience in what I do, I do not know how they can justify to anyone saying they would only work for XXX.

    Sorry fuckfaces, but society offered you the chance to better yourself, you just did not take it up. You had your chance and failed. Do not use this as an excuse to feed on society. Get with it. Get a brush. Get the streets swept clean.
  • SeitzySeitzy Acolyte
    edited May 2011
    Well Britain, you can join us (America) in our eternal trip down hill as both of our countries sink.

    *raises glass*

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