THOUSANDS of Bradford district families in 'problem debt' owe a total of nearly £50 million, a survey revealed today.

There are 8,803 families in dire financial straits in the parliamentary constituencies of Bradford South, Bradford East, Bradford West, Keighley and Shipley , with 19,941 children in these households for a total sum of £48,349,098.

The first-time research, carried out by The Children's Society and StepChange Debt Charity, found each struggling family is behind on payments by an average of £4,229 and across Yorkshire and the Humber families owe a total of £562m in bills and loans.

A family in 'problem debt' is one which has fallen behind on the repayments of bills or credit commitments. Families with debt, but are keeping up with payments, were not included.

In Bradford East, there are 2,419 families in debt, which includes 4,219 children, and totals £10,977,091.

David Ward MP (Lib Dem, Bradford East) said: "These figures are still too high.

"I see people are still struggling on a daily basis in my constituency.

"These figures are a reality check for us. There are still many families that are struggling.

"The only way out of it is for an increase in employment and increasing income that people can live on."

In Shipley, the study found 1,912 families are in the red, featuring 3,334 children for a total debt of £8,083,131.

Philip Davies MP (Con, Shipley) said: "I feel for all of the families who have been finding it extremely tough over the years. There is no painless way to pay off debts.

"When you get in debt, you have to pay it off. The issues in Shipley have been the same right across the community.

"There are lots of people in Shipley who have been struggling.

"The only way to deal with that is to get the economy growing. Hopefully now the economy is on the right track."

Meanwhile, a total of 1,652 families, featuring 2,881 children, are struggling and owe a total debt of £6,985,422 in Bradford West.

A spokesman for George Galloway (Respect, Bradford West MP) said: "These figures are hardly surprising.

"The figures might even be an underestimate given the amount of people we know about with financial problems in the constituency."

The Bradford South figures are even higher with 2,820 in debt of £11,925,113.

The figure in Keighley sees 2,631 families struggling, with 4,589 children affected for a total sum of £11,126,779.

The total figures for Yorkshire and the Humber finds 132,922 families in debt, featuring 231,827 children for a total debt figure of £562m.

The report, The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children' showed how family debt causes children to suffer from bullying, worry and anxiety and miss out on essentials.

Nationally, the survey found almost two and a half million children across the country live in families owing a total of £4.8 billion in bills and loans.

The Children's Society and StepChange Debt Charity are using the findings to lobby the Government to: The Children’s Society and StepChange Debt Charity are calling on the Government to:

• Consider developing a ‘breathing space’ scheme to give struggling families an extended period of protection from additional charges, further interest and enforcement action

• Review whether the protection for children against the harm caused by debt collection – including evictions, bailiffs and court action – is working

• Provide earlier and wider access to debt support and advice to help families put the brakes on a downward cycle of debt and reduce the impact on children.

• Impose tighter restrictions on advertising loans to children.

Bradford-based debt charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP), which works with some of the poorest families in the district, welcomed the publication of the report which highlights low income as being the biggest single reason for people being plunged into debt.

A CAP spokesman said: "Just under half of all the clients we helped last year were those with children who do feel that knock-on effect whether it's among strained relationships in the home or not having the basics provided.

"Our own research found that before getting CAP's help, 67 per cent of parents were struggling to provide their children with three meals a day and adequate clothing.

"The good news is that CAP negotiates with creditors on the clients' behalf with the aim of having them debt free within five years and in that time, every family learns to budget and save."