Impact of the recession on families
We asked Families Panel members what impact the recession has had or continues to have on their families.
The stress on families as a result of work (lack of it or fear of losing their job), increasing costs, isolation and increasing debt were felt by all groups. However, all groups identified the re-evaluation of priorities for themselves and their families as one of the main positive impacts of the recession. Families talked about having to decide what they will spend their money on, and being more careful with their money and budgeting. All the groups felt that this has a positive benefit for their children – it is an opportunity to teach their children how to budget, the value of money and how to decide what is important and what is not. The groups also talked about consciously taking more family time and taking an interest in doing things with their children (going to the park, having a games night etc). However parents also expressed concern that their children are being negatively affected, some have had to reduce or stop activities their children are involved with outside school because of cost. The families worried about the long term impact of the recession on their children’s future.
Another positive impact all the groups saw was a strengthening of relationships in their community, including: bartering “I get a haircut from a friend in exchange for baking”; swapping and sharing excess vegetables from the garden; handing on clothes to friends and family; sharing information about free or cheap resources; generally being more aware and involved with their local community through churches, schools and neighbourhoods.
Most of the groups were concerned about crime increasing particularly theft. In some urban areas they had noticed an increase in violent crimes such as people being attacked in broad daylight. The impact on small businesses was also noticed across the country – groups have seen small businesses close and the impact this can have on a community.
However, not all families felt that they had been impacted directly by the recession – this was particularly noted by the rural families: “You can’t spend what you haven’t got and farmers have been on a tight budget for years”; and some beneficiaries. However, all families had been affected either directly or through changes in their community and circumstances of their friends and family. For many it has felt like doom and gloom is all around, the impact of the media in contributing to this feeling was noted by many of the groups. For the some participants they felt that they “prepared for something that never happened”.
We hear from these discussions that the recession has impacted every family either directly or indirectly and that families believe the longer terms affects will be felt for a while. There was some optimism that benefits to families and communities such as stronger community connections, focussing on what is really important and budgeting skills would be continued. However there is also a lot of ongoing hardship for families and the resulting stress, violence and isolation is a reality for many.