Money Wellness
Image of a child looking happy holding out a wrapped Christmas present
category iconcost of living
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calendar icon05 Dec 2023

Help for families who can’t afford Christmas presents for the kids

Help for families who can’t afford Christmas presents for the kids

The festive season is magical for kids who wake up bright and early on Christmas morning to a stocking stuffed with toys, but Santa isn’t always kind to poor children and their families.

For parents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, the weeks leading up to Christmas can be stressful and depressing. The guilt that comes with knowing you can’t afford to buy your kids presents is a heavy burden to bear.

For many of the parents of the 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK, of all the days they battle to feed their kids, Christmas is the worst.

It can be incredibly lonely when everything you see online and on TV makes you feel like your kids are the only ones missing out.

Sebrina McCullough, head of external relations at Money Wellness, said: “Millions of households are struggling just to keep their heads above water because of rising interest rates, food prices and energy costs.

“This is like a winter never seen before. There will be households up and down the country who have never struggled before having to watch every penny. And there will be thousands of children who will simply go without a present from Father Christmas.”

Because we believe Christmas should be special for all kids, we’ve pulled together a list of charities and organisations offering help to struggling families this Christmas.

Salvation Army – Christmas Present Appeal

Last year the Salvation Army distributed 76,000 gifts. They’re offering wrapped presents including dolls, teddy bears, action figures and toy cars for younger children and make up, toiletries and gift vouchers to teenagers.

Referrals to the present appeal are managed by Salvation Army centres who work closely with social services, health visitors and schools so make sure you ask for help. Alternatively, get in touch with your nearest participating church here who can support you.

Family Action – Make Theirs Magic

Over the past five years, Family Action has distributed over 50,000 presents to families across the country. This Christmas they’re offering practical and emotional support to families through FOOD clubs, financial grants, FamilyLine and the Toy Appeal.

Families can join the Food On Our Doorstep (FOOD) scheme for just £1. Once a member you can buy bags of food worth £10-£15 for just £3.50-£4.00.

It’s also distributing toys via dozens of charities and organisations and has grants available to those who need a little bit of help. To find out more, visit

Cash for Kids – Mission Christmas

Mission Christmas is here to make a difference to thousands of children living in poverty. The charity has drop off points all over the country where people can donate toys, and also accepts cash donations. Every penny raised across its 22 locations stays within the local area with at least 80p from every £1 being donated used.

Mission Christmas supports children from birth to 18. Applications for gifts should be made by a representative from an official organisation such as your school, teacher, social worker, doctor or GP on your behalf. Find out more here.

Book Trust – Make Christmas Magical

Book Trust wants to deliver 17,000 book parcels to food banks across the country to make sure that, as well as food on the table, children also have presents under the tree.

The festive parcels will contain a book or two as well as a beautifully illustrated bookmark, a poster, and a heartfelt letter from the author.

Speak to your local food bank to see if they’re participating in the scheme or contact Book Trust directly here.

Action for Children – Secret Santa Appeal

Action for Children has been helping vulnerable families for more than 150 years. People can donate a range of helpful items through its Secret Santa Appeal including Christmas presents, teddy bears, a trip to see Santa, books and toys, meals and snacks, and warm winter clothes and bedding.

Find your local support centre here to see how they can help you.

Lidl Toy Bank

Working in partnership with Neighbourly, Lidl is collecting toys and gifts to donate to less fortunate families this Christmas. The presents will be distributed by charities, food banks and community groups. Find out more here.

Lidl has also made a fund available for toy bank partners to say thank you for the support they provide to families.

Other help

It’s worth checking with your local council and local churches to see if they’re running or know of any other smaller, more local schemes. You could also contact your local radio station who can often put you in touch with sources of help.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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