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 115.

    £17k is not poverty if you get your house paid for you, tax credits, child benefit etc etc. I work bloody hard to earn £26k a year and not entitled to anything and I rent a house privately. I work hard to give my child everything I can but I have to save for these things. These 'poorest' people probably have more disposable income than I do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Some massively ignorant views in this thread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Another report guaranteed to get the permanently angry making their ill informed soundbites. I don't recognise these descriptions as poverty in any sense of the word. Being hard up is not poverty. I could relate to any of the findings in this report as a child and don't apply poverty to my upbringing. Still this post will obviously be off-topic once the trolls complain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Please leave sweeping generalisations about poor families on the Daily Mail forums. Not all poor people deverve to be there, my family went through a hard time where we couldnt afford fresh food or heating and wondered if we would have a roof over our head the following week.
    Unless you have been in these situations you are not really in a position to comment on what poor families go through.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Its incredibly sad the number of people in this country who come up with all sorts of reasons to hate their fellow citizens, simply because they have less money than they do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    To help anyone new to HYS, what to expect:

    1) 1/4 claim w/o evidence that poor are:
    i) Lazy;
    ii) Stupid;
    iii) Spending benefits on fags+booze.

    2) 1/4 complain re aid to poorer nations and blame immigrants.

    3) 1/4 aim even lower, saying poverty must be ignored until you're a stereotypical starving, maggot-ridden Ethiopian child.

    4) Infighting amongst remainder. Not united, we are conquered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    @79 Cantonboycardiff - yeah but I bet if you pay £30k pa for school fees you'll end up with a child who can spell "Speech", "Cameron" and "Eton".

    And by the way, all the so called poor I see near where I live do indeed appear to be lazy, workshy feckless wasters who do nothing, and should get nothing but a roof over their head and foodstamps.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    an alotment feeds a family of 4 4 a year. @£12 rent plus seeds
    pigs chikens etc. Hand in TV licence of £145 and get all the food u need for a little hard work
    what is wrong with people getin of arse & doin some hard work of there own rather than relyin on the state to solve problems that breeds dependancy and corruption as they will vote for those that r offering the handouts

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.


    I live in the real world not the TV fantasy land that the BBC portrays.

    I see thousands of high rise flats where the “poor” live, every one has a sky dish.

    Benefits might be capped at £26,000 when many workers would love to earn that.

    Poverty does not exist in Britain, FACT.
    Obviously stupidity does, how else would Labour get elected

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Child poverty would be eradicated if those living in poverty stopped having children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    If you read the article it clearly states 61% work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    4.D James
    why are people who are not able to support even themselves having children?

    Were you not aware that the urge to have children is very strong generally? Many people have it part of their religion. Have you not heard of children being conceived unplanned?
    Yours in not a reasonable attitiude.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Apparently, it's a luxury to access the internet if you're unemployed.

    Even though it's a great way to save money, find jobs, re-establish contacts and create CVs, apply for work, pay bills and research.

    Some people here wont be happy unless people lay starving in the street.

    Grow up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Have just read 500 jobs to go in Stocton-on-Tees , so how many of these families will go below the poverty line ? there are no jobs and little hope ,like many parts of the forgotten North of England ..

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Perhaps some people would be more responsible if the benefit rules were no increase if you have another child whilst on the dole.

    It's sad that some children are living in poverty. It's not their fault. It's the feckless parents' faults; they are the ones who should be punished for being irresponsible and making their children miserable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    How many children in Britain die of hunger, thirst, lack of shelter or easily curable diseases ?? THAT IS POVERTY.
    What we see in Britain (less that 40% of average earnings) is nowhere near REAL POVERTY.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    " Rosetta
    So if the extra £10B were to be added to just those children in poverty, it would most likely double the support."

    How about the £9B a year spent on 120,000 highly dysfunctional families? Are they more deserving of UK taxpayer support than the billions living off less than $1 a day in the poorest countries of the world?

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.


    You must be 'wasting' your money on something then. Sounds like I earn a similar amount yet have a far greater disposable income (despite having debts from travels in my youth). Thats the point. People are different.

    Perhaps you spent your cash on those magical eyes that allow you to identify people on benefits simply by looking at them. Your post is made up nonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I'm all for making people work for there money but if the jobs they are expected to pay are for a pitiful wage they are still going to be in poverty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    So many disgusting comments with high ratings. Why do some people derive so much pleasure from demonizing the poor with pathetic talk of cigarettes, takeaways, and Sky TV. You do realize 'Shameless' is a comedy not a documentary right?

    Try channeling your ire into a positive direction, say at the wicked 1% rather than focusing your anger at people struggling just to get by on a daily basis.


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