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 135.

    I think bringing children into the world that you can not provide a decent, happy and healthy lifestyle for is sellfish. Having children that you cannot provide is indeed a mark of 'poor' parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I don't think this particular bunch of "do-gooders" has enough to do. Come round Dakha with me and see real povery. Total and utter crap !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.


    Society here in the UK has an obligation to its children, whatever their background and parenting.
    Indeed, which is why child benefits should be paid in the form of vouchers, to ensure that the children that benefit as much as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    Barclays are alleged to have made £500,000,000 speculating on the food markets (putting up the price of food worldwide). ironic isn't it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    By absolute poverty do you mean a corrupt despot being deprived of his new Mercedes?"

    No, those who have no access to clean water and are not being vaccinated against preventable illnesses, rather than providing Range Rovers, playstations, fags and tattoos to the families of gun toting dysfunctional families who ruin the lives of neighbourhoods in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    The problem for any welfare system is that you want to pay enough to keep children out of poverty but not reward irresponsible parents who have children without any regard for their futures. If there are 3.5m children 'in poverty' - 35% of all UK children - then clearly parents without enough money are having too many children. Either the welfare system or education system is in need of reform

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Stamps/Tokens for specific govt run shops, orange boiler suits as the only clothing, no money whatsoever and those found to posses items not purchasable from said shops would face inprisonment.
    = Reduced crime rates and give people an incentive to better themselves through work...... UK's benefit problems solved in one simple step :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    One should only have the number of children one can cater for. Heaven helps those who help themselves. I really do feel sorry for these children.
    I have heard somewhere that ALL honest labour has dignity. How are these parent(s) expected to instill good work ethics and character conviction in their children when they don't work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    99.Trout Mask Replica
    ‘How about the £9B a year spent on 120,000 highly dysfunctional families? ‘
    Not sure where you pulled that statistic from but £750,000 per family per year seems excessive.
    However, the fact does not change, these are a very few minority. Why punish others that really need it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    I live in the real world..
    Benefits might be capped at £26,000..
    I assure you the Director of the Food Bank lives very much in the real world.
    The £26K is only reached in the London area and gets paid directly to private landlords BTW.
    People of fed up with the tired old hate being peddled while rich boys play politics with the NHS and Economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    If you can get past the googly-eyed urchin images StC use, It's not the children that need help, it is their carers, parents and extended families who (for the most part) look after their children. We are highly taxed to ensure that they get this help.

    Here's my point - how much of your StC contribution will go on lobbying government and how much to contact your MP yourself?

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Child poverty is both an acceptable and planned part of our society. If it was not then unemployment benefit, the minimum wage and cheap social housing would not exist. A truly civilised society would help the poor and the less talented. It would give these people jobs and respect. Our country's infrastructure is poor and our poor are unemployed. Our society is not truly civilised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    105. Thanks for noticing that, it seems others did not. I work full time and earn less than 17k, am living on the breadline and, apparently, should not be spending my wages on internet or phone, which are luxuries. That small minded comment really annoyed the hell out of me, I work hard for what little I have, why do they think they have the right to tell me how to spend it? I'm not on benefits

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Those who are in denial about the state of the poorest in this country probably need to get out more and see the real world, instead of hiding in their offices and automobiles. The hallmark of human society seems to be inequity. Alas! An elm tree will shed a branch that produces too little, big cats may turn on a cat whose fur begins to turn grey, but does that mean we have to do the same?

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.


    1st, it's a lot of hardwork, to produce that much food would mean little time left to work. 2nd, the waiting lists for allotments runs to 10,000s so not nearly enough to go round. 3rd, most allotments do not allow kepping of animals.

    But apart from all those negating your arguement utterly, not an entirerly bad idea....????

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Not before time. Save the Children should be renamed "Save the World's Children" as only a tiny proportion of its funds ever find their way into the pockets of UK nationals. For the last 25 years it has given priority to African children. Every few minutes the same time-honoured adverts appear on TV asking for money for overseas children when money is desperately needed here.Charity begins at home

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Too many charity and civil service staff think that giving other people’s money away, while drawing a fat salary, makes themselves compassionate or caring. It doesn’t come from, largely imaginary, 'rich' it comes from other workers.

    Lord of the manor steals our pigs, Lady of the manor gives a beggar a ham sandwich and all the well fed henchpeople at the castle applaud her generosity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    105. JasonEssex
    And the other 39%? If pensioners 'manage' on less than £17K why cant others, whether they work or otherwise?
    Regardless of what your income is you cut your cloth to suit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    Maybe single mums should ask for the names & addresses of the men they sleep with, so when they fall preggers, they can force the fathers contribute to their illegitimate kids upbringing.

    Stick a post-it note on the bedroom ceiling as a reminder.

  • Comment number 116.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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