Poorest children suffering most from UK recession and cuts, says charity

By staff writers
September 5, 2012

Britain's poorest children are having their parents go hungry to feed them, are missing regular hot meals, are unable to afford warm coats and new shoes and are suffering enormous emotional strain.

So says a new Save the Children report, 'Child Poverty 2012: It Shouldn't Happen Here', published today, the day after the new UK government cabinet reshuffle was announced.

Critics say the coalition is pursuing policies which expose poorer people to the worst effects of the recession, increasing inequality and doing little to tackle the greed and irresponsibility which has produced the economic crisis.

'It Shouldn't Happen Here' highlights children's (as well as parents’) experiences living in recession-hit Britain and the extent to which poverty is blighting young lives.

One in eight of the poorest children in the UK go without at least one hot meal a day, and one in ten of the UK's poorest parents have cut back on food for themselves to make sure their children have enough to eat, the report reveals.

Behind the projected increases in child poverty are the day to day struggles of families on low incomes - many of them in work, but still in poverty.

In a snapshot of family life under pressure, the survey finds that children worry about their family not having enough money, with more than half of those living in poverty saying the lack of cash made their parents unhappy or stressed.

Almost a quarter of the poorest parents say they are arguing more or snap at their children because of their money troubles.

As children head back to school for the new term, one in seven of the poorest children surveyed say they have to go without a warm winter coat and new shoes when they need them.

Nearly a fifth of children living in poverty say they miss out on school trips because their parents have not got the money. Eighty per cent of parents admitted that they were borrowing more money for essentials such as food and clothes.

Save the Children says that witnessing the financial worries of their parents is placing an impossible burden on children, when they should be concentrating on school and their future careers.

Eleven-year-old Duncan told researchers: "My mum makes sacrifices so that I can do the hobbies I want to do to keep me off the streets. She cuts back on buying herself new shoes and clothes."

Save the Children spoke to more than 1500 youngsters and 5000 parents in their wide-ranging report.

A spokesperson for the charity declared: "We're aiming to raise £500,000 to help fund our work in Britain, targeting the poorest children - it's the first time we've appealed to the UK public for funds to help children at home.

"We want expand our two UK programmes - which are making a real difference - to more families and children across the country.

"We're also calling for the Government to encourage more employers to pay the living wage, so parents can earn enough to lift their children out of poverty."

Other ways the Government can take proper responsibility, says the charity, is through strengthening the new welfare system, Universal Credit, by allowing working parents to keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn; and to help parents afford to work by providing extra child care support so 80 per cent of costs are covered.

Save the Children UK's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, commented: “No child should see their parent going hungry or start the new term without a warm coat and with holes in their shoes."

He continued: "Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under the pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money."

"That’s why for the first time in our history we are launching a UK appeal. We need to help poor families survive the recession," said Mr Forsyth.

The charity's CEO added: "Given that most children living in poverty have at least one parent in work; it is appalling that those parents can’t earn enough to give themselves and their kids a decent life.'

"All working parents should be able to earn enough to meet the basic needs of their children. The Government must make work pay by encouraging more employers to introduce a living wage, provide extra child care support to help parents trying to get into work and protect the poorest and most disadvantaged from further cuts," he said.

* Save the Children: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/


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