A more sombre side to the festive season

WINDOW cleaner Johnny Catt admits he is not entirely looking forward to Christmas.

"It's a double-edged sword, to be honest," he says. "Obviously it is a worry. We try to put a few pounds aside but it isn't easy. And if the weather turns there isn't any money coming in.

"But of course it's fantastic for the kids, it's absolutely wonderful."

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Mr Catt, who lives east of Hull, is self-employed, and knows all about the difficulties of trying to run a small business while supporting a young family. His and partner Vicky Henderson's two sons Corven and Jovi are four and two years old respectively.

"We've had some bad luck and it's made things very difficult for us," the 45-year-old says. "Corven has had some medical problems – the doctors suspect he might be mildly autistic – and Vicky has also been unwell.

"It's meant I've had to have an awful lot of time off work and obviously if I'm not working then there is no money coming in."

Faced with a major crisis when Ms Henderson was forced to go into hospital with pneumonia, Mr Catt turned to East Yorkshire charity Children and Family Action (CFA) for help.

"I honestly don't know where we would be without them," he says. "They've helped us so much. They helped us get some emergency funding for nursery care for Jovi while Corven was at school and Vicky was ill, so at least I could keep working."

Like so many others across Yorkshire and the country, the family are also struggling with personal debt.

"The charity has helped us manage our debts so there's one affordable payment each month," Mr Catt says. "They also helped us find some furniture when we were forced to move house at short notice – our landlord suddenly decided he was selling the property. The charity have been absolutely amazing to us."

Despite the CFA's work, however, life remains difficult for Mr Catt and his family.

"It is a struggle, and it probably always will be for us to be honest," he says. "I know lots of other people are in the same situation. But budget-wise it really is a wing and a prayer. We are all right as long as nothing ever goes wrong – but of course it does. If a part falls off my car and we have to pay for that then suddenly we're having to go without."

CFA chief executive Gina Rebeiro – whose charity is one of hundreds which has had money from its local Community Foundation – said the family's case is not an isolated one.

"We provide such a large range of services to help these sorts of families," she says.