A DORSET family have told of their lockdown crisis and how a shortage of money has left them struggling to afford the basics and forced them deep into debt.

The family are those who a charity warns are facing the ‘bleakest’ winter amid fears of a second wave, along with the furlough scheme ending and predictions of mass unemployment.

Action for Children says while thousands struggled even before coronavirus hit, a new wave of families have found themselves in dire straits virtually overnight because of falling incomes and rising household costs.

Families who struggle to feed and clothe their children are set to be plunged further into financial crisis, it warns. The charity is asking the Chancellor to help families in the forthcoming Budget.

Lockdown has been financially crippling for parents Carl, 28, and Leah Gale, 25, from Sherborne.

As soon as the country went into lockdown, work dried up for self-employed painter and decorator Carl. Previously describing themselves as ‘just about managing’, the couple soon found themselves struggling to afford the basics for their three children - Jayden, 6, Colby, 4, and Evelyn, 2.

Leah said: “Everything went downhill rapidly. As Carl is self-employed, we’re not entitled to any government help or furloughing or anything – so we’ve been forced to borrow left, right and centre from family and friends as well as take out a loan to cover council tax - we’ve never struggled like this before, ever. Covering life’s basic expenses since March has pushed us into the most debt we’ve ever been in – and it doesn’t look like things will get better for a long while yet.”

The family have been supported by funds from Action for Children’s coronavirus appeal which were used to pay for gas and electric on several occasions as well as to buy food and summer clothes for the children. Action for Children staff also delivered food parcels from a local food bank.

Leah said: “Our financial situation is shocking. I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about money but Christmas is the one weighing down on me massively now.

“We’re just praying there aren’t any more lockdowns and we can start to go back to normal – I don’t want to think about it getting any worse.”

Action for Children's emergency appeal has supported more than 10,000 vulnerable children across the country in need of urgent essentials.

As it launches its End Childhood Crisis campaign, the charity is warning a generation of children are at risk of being scarred by poverty and now the pandemic. It is urging the Chancellor to use the November Budget to put a protective shield around struggling families by not withdrawing the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit in the spring and by boosting Child Benefit this winter.

Becky Webb, from Action for Children in the South West, said: “Six months into this pandemic, families are hanging by a thread as they face one of the bleakest winters of their lives. While parents on low incomes are starting to buckle, a new wave of families who’ve never needed help before are now also struggling to make ends meet."

To support the campaign visit actionforchildren.org.uk