Holidays are an “unaffordable luxury” for many families, with a negative impact on mental wellbeing for those missing out.
Research for the Family Holiday Association shows that working families – where household income is between £12,000-£34,000 a year after tax and benefits – are struggling to cover the costs of a break away.
Many have to juggle annual leave to meet caring responsibilities and are unable to spend time together.
Parents feel there is a limited time to form childhood memories. This creates a ‘ticking clock’ for parents who are unable to provide holidays for their children with feelings of guilt and shame weighing heavy on parents’ minds.
Reasons given by families for not being able to take a break include having caring responsibilities outside of childcare, such as looking after elderly or sick relatives. The cost of out of peak holiday travel and sanctions imposed on parents for ‘unauthorised absences’ during term time are also given as prohibiting factors.
The government should launch an independent commission to investigate how to better enable ordinary working families to participate in tourism and make access to a holiday a social right.
FHA CEO Martin Realey said: “Our charity works with families on a low income who are struggling with some of the toughest challenges life can bring.
“We know how a simple break from a stressful situation can create precious memories, strengthen bonds and develop a new sense of optimism.”
The research found that being able to get a break is also a challenge for an even larger group of families, he added.
“What is concerning is the negative impact this is having on our country’s mental wellbeing,” Realey said.
Almost a quarter of those interviewed hardly ever took a break.
Furthermore, 70% felt they got away less than other people they knew and spoke of the guilt they felt about not being able to afford to take their children away.
Dr Paula Black, Director of Nottingham Civic Exchange, which conducted the study, said: “Participants in this study expressed strong feelings that they were more disadvantaged in terms of holidays and breaks than those they compared themselves to.
“While most of the participants had been away for a break within the past year, the interviews revealed breaks are not all that they seem.
“Some of our families were combining trips with wider caring responsibilities, others classified a break as even just one night away from home, work and daily routines. The challenges of costs, including saving up for a holiday and time away from work, was a source of worry for many.”
The research identified several benefits of breaks, including strengthening family relationships, creating shared family memories, providing new social and cultural experiences, providing respite from daily routine and enabling children to participate fully in shared social interactions away from televisions and games consoles.
But further research is needed to investigate the potential for breaks to improve the lives of struggling families, which in turn could help reduce the demand on stretched social services.
The study was based on interviews with ordinary working families – a section of the population NCE has been researching since its launch two years ago. T
FHA president Peter Long, former joint CEO of Tui, said: “Our own research shows that the impacts of a break can be far-reaching; from improvements in mental health and reduced isolation to increased school attendance and job-seeking behaviour.
“We call for more research to better understand the potential savings this simple intervention could have on our stretched support services.
“Our work with VisitScotland on the ScotSpirit Breaks initiative show what can be achieved when government, industry and charities work together with a shared vision. We welcome the recommendation of an Independent Commission to look at this to better understand the potential for increasing access to tourism in Britain today and funding mechanisms to achieve this.
“We hear every day of the difference that a break or day out can make – new experiences, hope for the future, lives transformed. We surely must do all we can so that every child has holiday memories that will last a lifetime.”
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