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 55.

    One of the richest nations in the world can't keep its people fed, watered and clothed properly! Something is seriously wrong with Great Britain. Big business see profits go up yet working parents still find themselves on the poverty line because wages are so bad. There is a trend of taking the money to the top and it staying there. The middle class shrinks, poor get poorer and rich get richer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Cap rents. Reintroduce secure tenancy. End right to buy = landlord+banks profit + welfare burden.

    End food retail hegemony - break up supermarkets.

    Abolish government subsidy of private labour, from Tax Credits to Workfare. Pay a living wage.

    Invest in local infrastructure + manufacturing.

    Stop voting Old / New Tory.

    Bring back Swinging Sixties social democracy and help Britain advance again!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    People on here don't seem to believe that real poverty exists. There seems to be an assumption that everyone who is struggling is wasting their money on other things but this is far from the reality in many of these cases. Poverty still exists and it's not always because the parents are spending their money on other things and it certainly is never the childs fault!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Leave people with a reasonable living before tax, e.g. at least £15k personal tax allowance and abolish council tax
    Parents must expect to work, not hold out their hands for someone else to support their children.
    Parents must prioritize basics like food (ingredients) and shoes for their children over fags, sky, takeways, readymeals, booze etc
    Before any more shemes/benefits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    no money for food but plenty for Cider,fags, Sky and endless things from mail-order... get your Priorities right

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    This problem has arisen because one has to pass more tests to rescue an abbonded puppy than than one does to breed like rabbits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Seeing a few people in the street and making sweeping assumptions about tv, smoking, and spending, is not a valid way to form a view on social issues.
    Save the Childen at least have evidence to support their claims.
    What is true is that in our relatively wealthy society, a number of families are finding it hard to cope. Our responsibiity is to assist them towards a better life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    21.Trout Mask Replica
    ‘ If £250B can't solve it why would £260B?’
    Probably because the £250B includes every facet of benefits including: disability, housing, working tax credits and job seeker. So if the extra £10B were to be added to just those children in poverty, it would most likely double the support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    People do go hungry in this country, I have seen this with my own eyes. Many more people, including people who are earning a wage, have to turn to food banks, which simply should not happen in this day and age. There are groups of influential people, in the West, who view poverty as either entirely self-made or due to poor genetics and hence they do not want the poor to breed, so do not help them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Utter nonsense. Most of the so-called 'poverty' in the UK is self-inflicted. People need to understand priorities, one of which is making sure children are properly fed and clothed. If necessary at the expense of TV, fags, alcohol, cars etc. We need more self-discipline and self-reliance, not more handouts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    It's certainly true that the definition of poverty has changed over the years:

    100 years ago : Not having enough turnips and carrots to eat

    30 years ago : Not having central heating or an inside toilet

    Now : Not having a PS3, Sky TV and a Samsung Galaxy S3

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    the new intake of neocon tory mps like nick Boles want 0 state benefits mr Boles is for no state assistance wether it benefits or health care his is the new tory neocon wish for us in the next 10-15 years his thinktank wants the state only to assist in enabling the economy to grow nothing else the rest of us not in the top 1% =food parcels child deaths malnutrition families on streets etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    @12 DG. You have proven my point. Did you do your sums befor you decided to have children. You also dont mention how much you receive from the taxpayer in terms of Child allowance, Tax Credit, Free NHS Dentist Etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    What part of don't get old, sick, disabled, unemployed or homeless in Mr Camerons good old blighty! The CON / DEMS have taken us all down a path of destruction...Go and look at their model...THE US of read exploitation! The Olympics just averted, a long summer of discontent, only just!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Save the children playing politics.
    Did you see Newsnight about Food Banks?
    Important information given by the Director.
    Massive increase over last 2 or 3 years.
    1/2 the people have jobs.
    Problems caused by low (frozen) pay, rising food, energy and transport costs.
    Problems caused by loan sharks etc. and withrawal of benefits.
    The Tories just have rhetoric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Trout Mask Replica
    ", perhaps you could explain how taking £10B from addressing absolute poverty in the world would materially help"

    Yes Teacher , if you cant see that 10 billion is of any help then I hope your subject isnt maths. By absolute poverty do you mean a corrupt despot being deprived of his new Mercedes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    The problem is you cannot do an ordinary job well in this country and expect to earn a living wage anymore.

    Every working adult should be able to look forward to bringing up one child (two per family). Why should the rich be the only ones to have the right to reproduce?

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I'm self-employed, have two kids, and I don't think I've ever had a 'living wage'. But we cut costs and budget accordingly. If it means we don't have holidays, so be it - we find things cheap to do for the family, like going to the beach, etc instead. It's money management skills people need, not just more money to waste on big TVs, iphones or fags.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    We have a government who hate the poor.

    So don't expect anything to improve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Ending child poverty is a statistical impossibility. No amount of money will ever stop it.

    I had a poor upbringing but I was loved and cared for much better than many of my middle class friends. So stop stigmatizing the poor by claiming it is some sort of disease.

    The only answer is to give kids a great education & strong work ethic, so they can earn their way out of poverty in later life.


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