News that child poverty rates in the UK are still rising has come at just the wrong time says the chief executive of a leading Christian children’s charity.
"According to government statistics released this month, two out of five families in the lowest income bracket won’t be able to afford even a week’s holiday this year," says Tim Jeffery, chief executive of Spurgeons.
"Without any kind of holiday to look forward to children can be deeply affected, emotionally," maintains Jeffery. "Those living in poverty often suffer from a lack of self-confidence and, eventually, lose hope. We have to reach them before that happens."
While thousands of people will soon jet off to idyllic, warmer climes, crushing poverty forces Susan, in Littlehampton, to do the best she can for her five children - at home.
"It’s the worst time of all because I can’t afford to take them away," explains the 37-year-old single mum. "Keeping them occupied for six weeks is ludicrously expensive."
Until she came into contact with Spurgeons, Susan’s home was a council house where her four sons were forced to share one bedroom. Jamie, Lewis, Kyle, Joe and Katy, aged between nine and 15, have special needs (ADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, vision impairment, learning difficulties and behavioural difficulties). As Susan struggles to make ends meet financially, she worries about them missing out on experiences other young people may take for granted.
"All my children want to do after-school clubs, camps and school trips but it’s hard because I don’t have the money and that breaks my heart."
In 1999 former Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the target of halving child poverty by 2010 and eliminating it by 2020. But Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released this month revealed 3.9 million UK children were classed as living in poverty in the year 2006/07, an increase of 100,000 on the previous year.
"That’s 100,000 more children in danger of being in the same situation as families like Susan’s," explains Tim Jeffery, who believes the answer can only come from joined up thinking by central Government and local authorities. "We call on the Government to deliver integrated solutions which will not only lift children and young people out of poverty but also their families and communities. Only then will we break the poverty cycle."