I was listening to a local radio programme last week where they were discussing some of the strangest requests for Christmas presents from children. A potato, a brick and a kebab were mentioned, along with a little girl who wanted a wall – so that she didn’t have to share her room with her sister anymore!
While I’m not sure if Father Christmas’s DIY skills will deliver for that particular request, I do know that giving children what they want is a difficult task. Especially when there is so much pressure from the media to have that ‘perfect’ Christmas, complete with all the (very costly) trimmings.
Christmas is a demanding time financially. Even if you have a job, wages haven’t been rising with inflation and many people are trying to survive on temporary or zero-hours contracts. The family featured on the front page of the Chronicle recently was just one example of the many who find it difficult to make ends meet, even when they have a job.
I have written here before about my campaign to raise the minimum wage, so that we can make work pay. But that is a long term solution. With Christmas just weeks away, some people may be trying to find more immediate ways to pay the bills.
If you’ve been turned away by the high street banks, you might be considering turning to high-cost, ‘pay day’ lenders. With the extortionate interest that these and other short-term lenders charge, they are no more than legal loan sharks.
Once in that cycle of repetitive borrowing, it can be very difficult to break free. It is this borrowing-trap that loan companies rely on to make obscene profits from some of the poorest people in our society.
For those affected, I would urge them to consider the South Yorkshire Credit Union instead. It exists to provide help with affordable loans and accessible savings; its aim is to provide an alternative to high-cost credit. It will also help those struggling to manage their budget, with practical advice.
The Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) is also really good at advising people on debt-related issues, as well as other concerns.
I do hope that you and your family manage to have a happy and peaceful Christmas. This year I have decided not to send Christmas cards to constituents so that instead I can make a charitable donation to the Barnsley Churches Drop-In Project, which provides food and support to those in need.
I would like to wish you all the very best for the festive period. As we look forward, I believe that 2015 promises to be an exciting year full of change and challenges – all of which I hope will benefit our town.
South Yorkshire Credit Union has offices in Barnsley and across South Yorkshire.
Tel: 0303 03 000 10 Website: www.sycu.co.uk
Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) offer help and advice on debt, as well as other issues.
Tel: 03444 111 111 (calls charged the same as calling 01 and 02 numbers)
TextRelay users: 03444 111 445
This article was first published in the Barnsley Independent on 10 December 2014.