Save the Children urges action for poorest UK children

Father and daughter outside house Families on the lowest incomes are struggling to make ends meet, says Save the Children

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The charity Save the Children, best known for helping some of the world's poorest families, has launched an appeal to help UK children.

The charity says the UK's poorest children are bearing the brunt of the recession, with some missing out on regular hot meals or new shoes.

The campaign urges the government to focus on benefits for low-paid families and ask employers to pay a living wage.

The government said it was committed to eradicating child poverty.

Researchers for Save the Children surveyed more than 1,500 children aged eight to 16 and more than 5,000 parents, focusing on the lowest income groups.

The study draws on Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) figures which estimate that there are 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK and predict a steep rise in the numbers in coming years.

Sarah from Devon

I'm 40 and have three children, aged 14, seven and three. My husband and I earn less than £17,000 a year as self-employed bookkeepers.

Our food bill has gone up in the last few years from £70 a week to £130 a week - due to inflation.

I can't provide nutritious meals for my kids all week. Fruit doesn't last long. We try our best, but I rely on tax credits.

I haven't looked at food banks. We'd be too proud. While we can afford baked beans, soup and cereal we'll get by.

I try to plan so that we get one evening meal together a night, but we've moved to having side plate portions.

Once every two days me, my husband or both of us leave without breakfast and have a packet of crisps at lunchtime to keep us going.

We're living hand-to-mouth.

The charity defines living in poverty as having a family income of less than £17,000 a year.

More than half the parents in poverty surveyed (61%) said they had cut back on what they ate and more than a quarter (26%) had skipped meals in the past year.

Just under a fifth (19%) said their children sometimes had to go without new shoes when they needed them.

Financial strain

Some 19% of children in poverty said they had missed out on school trips and 14% said they did not have a warm coat to wear in the winter.

The report, It Shouldn't Happen Here, also reveals the extent to which children are aware of how much financial strain their parents are under with more than half (58%) saying they thought it was getting harder for their parents to pay for everything.

Some 52% of the poorest children agreed that not having enough money made their parents unhappy or stressed and 43% 'strongly agreed' that their parents were cutting back on things for themselves such as clothes or food.

Parents on the lowest incomes agreed they were more likely to snap at their children (23%) because of money worries compared with better off parents (10%).

The report quotes last month's Department for Work and Pensions figures which showed 61% of children in poverty had working parents. It urges the government to encourage more employers to pay above the minimum wage so that workers can provide for their families.

"Mummy doesn't eat so there's enough for us"

It says the new Universal Credit system should let working parents keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn and urges the government to pay 80% of childcare costs for the poorest families.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive, said: "Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under the pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money.

"We need to help poor families survive the recession."

He 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.

"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."

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Despite £150bn being poured into benefits and tax credits over the last decade, the previous government's approach to tackling child poverty has failed, with the UK missing its own 2010 child poverty targets.

"The government remains committed to eradicating child poverty, but we want to take a new approach by tackling the root causes including worklessness, educational failure and family breakdown.

"And our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and lifting 350,000 children and 550,000 adults out of poverty."

Commenting on the campaign during Prime Minister's Questions, David Cameron said: "We are making sure we target help on the poorest families in our country, which is what we have done through the tax credit system.

"At the same time, I think we should praise all voluntary and big society efforts to help the poorest families in our country as well."

Save the Children aims to raise £500,000 from the charity appeal to help boost low income children's school careers and provide basic essentials such as cookers, furniture or toys for their families.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Throwing money at the problem won’t help. Parents need to take responsibility and get off benifits, get to work, and aim higher. This will bring in further income, giving their children a better life and a work ethic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    "we want to take a new approach" - meanwhile children don't eat.

    A government nobody voted for doing more damage than anyone thought possible. As ever with the Tories the greed of the few outweighs the need of the many.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    4.D James
    "It's not good for children to grow up in poverty, so why are people who are not able to support even themselves having children?"

    Everything is not black and white. People could have been millionaires and easily afford kids but for whatever reason their life collapsed but they are still left with kids. should they have not had kids in the first place? Do you have kids?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Will I help? No!

    I pay my taxes and our poor, by world standands are still well off! Only when they don't have a TV, DVD, Computer and all the other luxuries as well as not going to the pub, eating out etc. and only just managing to pay their bills, would I consider them poor. I wonder how many fall into that category?
    I'll save my charitable giving to the animal charities.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Poverty at £17000pa! Tell that to the third world!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Tories = failure. They have taken us back to the Victorian Era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Been there with the poverty myself, what helped me though is rather than shopping at sainsburys and other 'premium' supermarkets I shopped at the ones with cheep food, for example a high st frozen food retailer has 12 slices of square sausage for £1. Mechanically reclaimed probably but it WILL feed your family adequately for less than £1 a meal, useful to know when cash is tight.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    As one person said, poverty is relative. *Real* poverty is out there in the world for all to see. Poverty in this country is if you don't have three phones and a plasma TV. The answer is simple - stop handing out benefits in cash and start using vouchers. That way, our town centre pub will not be packed every Thursday lunchtime with "the poor" spending their handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    I also think there should be checks to make sure child benefits are being used properly to feed.clothe and keep bedrooms warm for children. Not just enabling rotten parents to indulge themselves with ciggies,booze and takeaways,often after the kids are in bed without having had a proper meal themselves in the evenings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    I don't think anyone would argue that there are many children who go without. (Sometimes the parents don't know how to prepare cheaper healthy choices) but the main problem is giving parents cash will not change it. I've seen many children who look like they need a good meal walking in front of their obese parents who are too busy talking on their shiny new mobile phone to notice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    If benefits were paid in food/clothing/energy etc vouchers there is a higher liklihood that children from poorer families would not go without due to their parents wasting their benefits on cigarettes,booze,scratchcards,sky tv and football shirts.
    There may also be an added incentive for the parents to motivate themselves to achieve more to earn real money to spend on these extras.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    I think all the comments thus far reflect what we all know. Benefits and other social handouts are being spent on luxury items, and the children suffer. As @11 said, i also pay a huge tax bill every month to look after other peoples children, which really annoys me when you hear of these single mothers etc going to tanning parlours to try and attract another man and have yet more children

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Read the report it's not about the idle and feckless it's because most bosses would rather drive 62 plate jag than pay a human wage

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I recently watched an appeal on Tv the speaker asked for a regular £2 a month donation to help fund save a child in some parts of drought Africa The appeal showed horrendous film depicting the plight in abject poverty of skeletal looking babies and small starving children. To my mind real poverty and needs addressing How long before on this HYS will the Tories be held guilty of poverty everywhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    How much is our foreign aid budget?"

    About 4% of the Benefits budget. If £250B a year can't solve relative poverty in the UK, perhaps you could explain how taking £10B from addressing absolute poverty in the world would materially help. If £250B can't solve it why would £260B?

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    just a thought, how about people have children once they can afford to? If they bring a child into this world and have to skip meals why is this child not taken into care?

    Pop out a child every now and then and hold your grasping claw out for more cash. What a wonderful society we live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    The disgraced David Lawes who is now back in Government and Jeremy Hunt given the job of destroying the NHS tell you all you need to know about what this governments reaction wil be to child poverty - THEY WILL IGNORE IT.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    What a despicable repsonse from the DWP. The is no way this govt is really committed to dealing with child poverty. They see poverty as part of their "more competitve" Britain and they are ready to accept child poverty as a result of their ideological cuts.
    You need investment, in jobs, hosing, education etc to make headway on this issue, not tax cuts for the rich.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Parents may look obese, but people don't less so much weight overnight! It is also a matter of the quality of food - many cheaper foods are nutritionally poor or inadequate without more expensive supplementation. The average height of a well nourished Caucasian population historically is about 5' 10'' to 5' 11''; we are nationally short of that due to poor quality nutrition, not a calorie deficit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Save the children playing politics.

    No difference between poverty now and 5 years ago, but Save the Children would not have played this stunt with a Labour government in power.

    Sad, very sad when children are dying of starvation in Africa and people want to play silly games.


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