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 835.

    812. alan
    What has happened to this country? My mother worked in a linen mill in her bare feet and my father as a barman...
    Where have we gone wrong?

    Maybe we were dumb enough to think that if decent working people were putting in a fair day's work, they shouldn't have had to go barefoot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 834.

    I'm not saying those on sink estates breed irresponsibly but in the local 'Happy Shopper" they now sell "Happy 30th Birthday Granny" cards.

    That's a joke, by the way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 833.

    One thing that might make a difference is if EVERYONE who is entitled to VOTE did in EVERY election, not just the general election!! If there is not a party you want to vote for or believe in just "write none of the above" on your ballot paper. It will be counted as spoiled but recorded and looked at by party representatives.

  • rate this

    Comment number 832.

    All you Islington types need to venture out to poor areas in "the provinces". Whilst there pop into the local Chinese takeaway. The phone never stops ringing for delivery orders.

    Your "good intentions" have resulted in an illiterate underclass who pop out kids for benefits alone. They are bad parents. It's no wonder they don't feed their kids. Sorry if this offends, but it's a reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 831.

    Perhaps the best answer is to put those in 'poverty' who are on benefits in touch with people who say that it's not their fault.

    Sort of like sponsor a sponger.

    That way, the rich liberals can do their pious duty and take the burden off those who do not have sympathy.

    Good idea, no?

  • rate this

    Comment number 830.

    I am aware of a woman with 10 children by different fathers who is proud of the fact that the state pays for everything. Stopping benefits after child 2 makes sense, or sterilisation. What chance do thes poor kids have ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 829.


    Why is everyone talking about benefit claimants? I thought this story was about how lower paid workers are struggling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 828.

    The 'just work harder' is over simplistic. For starters millions are in part time jobs but cant get full time work to boost their earnings. Then those who do work harder find their wages have been cut or just dont go far enough to provide. Government has abandoned responsibility toward its people, being slaves of market ideology...its time to regulate the cost of living and stop the huge hikes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 827.

    We mustn't punish children; they deserve our sympathy and support. Stopping Child Benefits after number 2 sounds a sensible idea - I think the Scandinavians do that. And, more importantly, let's abolish Overseas Aid (and overseas wars) and use that money to benefit our own people. We need to put our kids first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 826.

    What %of UK wealth does the top 1% own?
    How much more wealth is hidden in shady offshore scambases?"

    I don't know. Neither do you.

    It's funny how the left criticise those who base their views on benefits claimants on inuendo, half truth and made up 'facts' and then those same lefties base their views on the wealthy on innendo, half-truth and made-up 'facts'

  • rate this

    Comment number 825.

    ""Absolute" poverty can be eradicated, and I would guess has for the most part been, in the west anyway. "Relative" poverty, by definition, cannot be."

    It can by means of wealth redistribution. This brings everyone's income closer to the average. Low incomes can then raie above that 40% (or whatever it is) mark.

  • rate this

    Comment number 824.

    The confiscatory level of income tax cannot continue its as simple as that you slack-jawed snatchers of working mans bread. drag yer socialists knuckles onto some other bleeding heart theft scheme.. I don't know where >

  • rate this

    Comment number 823.

    one way to help decrease children being brought up by a benefit dependant parent,stop automatically giving the children and home to the mother when a relationship breaks down if she is not in full time work,start looking at placing the children with the parent who can provide for them financially
    as the government keeps stating is that they can help towards child care for a parent in f/t work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 822.

    In the 1980 s during the miners strike the children in my family had to rely on food parcels and voluntary soup kitchens. It is now 2012 and here we are again. Two right wing governments. When will people learn? Tell you what will work - lets just reduce tax for rich people. That'll work won't it Mr Cameron?

  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    What %of UK wealth does the top 1% own?
    How much more wealth is hidden in shady offshore scambases?

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    813. Leaguefan
    Why are people so nasty?
    Might be because they're had the kindness taxed out of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.


    I guess you are really stuck if you are poor but hate Asian food. Chilli and turmeric based dishes can be very boring substitutes for a nice bit of plain boiled organic cabbage with butter or grilled fish. Not everybody wants spices on every food item - poor & rich alike.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    814. AndyC555
    "I'll help you. See the table below. It is headed "shares of income" Those with a 1% SHARE of the UK's income pay 24% of the IT. Those who have a 10% SHARE of the UK's income pay over 50% of its income tax.
    Now, go off and learn a bit more about the topic and then we can have a proper discussion."


    If you are you a poverty stricken statistician, you would need a brain for that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    I worked in the DSS and saw exactly where benefit money went: fags, drink, drugs. The hand-wringing had got to stop and those who can't afford to have children, should think twice before having them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    I think the key thing being missed here is that £10 is a lot of money to a min wage worker, but next to nothing for someone on £50k. It's all about perspective.

    For example, it's reckoned that Brits have £21Trillion stashed away in tax havens. If they gave up 10% of that, which would not hurt them in any real way except ego, we could be debt free and booming.


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