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 855.

    I would be careful about cutting back on foreign aid. Soon Britain will be welcoming foreign aid.

    Unacceptable (or is it acceptable?) poverty is only one symptom of a failed nation.

    It's a shame but I think I'll probably live long enough to see revolutionary changes in Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 854.

    There are many people who are not better off claiming benefits rather than working.
    My Dad fell ill with a stroke ten years ago and has been medically retired.
    Since his stroke our family have claimed benefits for him and he is receiving a fraction of what he earned.
    We regularly have to leave the heating off throughout the winter as we can't afford the bills and have just enough to buy food.

  • rate this

    Comment number 853.

    What about the many tax evaders in London alone who take cash in hand from rented property?"

    If you have knowledge of this you should report it to HMRC.

    If it's just rumour and anecdote that you believe because it suits you, isn't that like those who say all those on sick-benefits are scroungers because they're all fit enough to work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 852.

    841.Rodney sorry I meant Romney

    It is better to remain silent and be though of as a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt upon the matter..

  • rate this

    Comment number 851.


    It is calculated by Tax Research UK that offshore tax avoidance cost the UK £16 billion per annum & that the overall but steadily rising cost of tax evasion costs £30 billion per annum. Surely thats ammo enough for any "leftie" or hungry parent? I guess those vile "lefties" get tired of repeating the figures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 850.

    834. AndyC555
    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.
    I have put on a corset to prevent my sides from splitting.

    By the way 842, I would be very surprised if the State Pension isn't means-tested at some point in the future'

  • rate this

    Comment number 849.

    I'm guessing that those complaining about "poverty" for working families are the same that are happy with the uncontrolled immigration that has occurred ?

    Cause and effect has no resonance ? The British "working class" have been priced out of a good wage by millions of new arrivals who are exploited.

  • rate this

    Comment number 848.

    838 "5% tax cut for the highest earners in the budget - Fact"

    Reduction on tax deductible pension contributions from £325k to £50k - fact.
    Closure of 'disguised remuneration' schemes - fact
    News International pays £100ks in Employer NI - fact
    Private rent levels not relevant to discussions on the rich paying tax - fact
    Huge increases in stamp duty & closure of avoidance schemes - fact

  • rate this

    Comment number 847.

    #834 :-)

    #832 Quite possibly the most absurd anecdotal assertion this year - still,it's less boring than, "the family next door has never worked plasma sky booze fags holidays feckless indolent entitlement" routine,

  • rate this

    Comment number 846.

    841.Rodney sorry I meant Romney

    "HYS is the Jeremy Kyle show for desktop chavs."

    Haha! Love it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 845.

    That way, the rich liberals can do their pious duty and take the burden off those who do not have sympathy.
    Since when is gratuitously spouting prejudiced hatred a burden? I think it's the likes of you that should sponsor a "sponger". You might learn the wrong of your ways and become a better person and do something constructive. It feels good, you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 844.

    Re 402. (most negatived)

    Having seen the spelling (unless it is a joke) I think you have just explained why more money should be spent on education/family planning and less on child benefits.

    Give vouchers, not money. Genuinely poor people won't care either way and their children will be clothed and fed. It won't go on booze, Sky, fags, clapped out BMWs and tattoos.

  • rate this

    Comment number 843.

    No money left. It's all gone in overseas aid to help other poor children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 842.

    At the end of the day how many people posting are receiving benefits they dont actually need to survive. Its imoral if you ask me. Sooner or later a government is going to be forced to means test all benefits outwith the OAP. Because today we have a perverse situation created by both sides of the house, whereby Rich people can get (and without any tests or scrutiny) state handouts. Imoral. Yes

  • rate this

    Comment number 841.

    829. Golgotha
    Why is everyone talking about benefit claimants? I thought this story was about how lower paid workers are struggling?
    Because posters don't generally read past the headline and under the disguise of freedom of speech indulge in ranting about their standard pet hates. Basically, HYS is the Jeremy Kyle show for desktop chavs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 840.


    What about the many tax evaders in London alone who take cash in hand from rented property? I reckon we could feed a few hungry mouths with the dosh from this scam. I dont know the exact amount this is costing UK economy but I know of many examples of it in my area.

  • rate this

    Comment number 839.


    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.

    Perfect !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 838.

    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'
    5% tax cut for the highest earners in the budget - Fact
    News international pays hardly any UK tax - Fact
    Private rent increasing to unaffordable levels - Fact

  • rate this

    Comment number 837.

    I think we are too busy helping others from outside the UK. Some of these children come here and have better lifestyles than UK families, whilst claiming at the same time. I know one lady from Philippines who takes her child to work with her at a Nursing Home and expects the elders to feed her over a 12 hour shift. Is this fair when we are here in our own country struggling to feed our own.

  • rate this

    Comment number 836.

    As ever there is much talk of curtailing birth rates among the poor
    Do we impose that ?
    What criteria do we apply given our temp a day job culture?
    What do you we do with miscreants, short of forced abortion or sterilisation?
    I recognise the epidemic of single mum accommodation subsidies but given the high cost low or no wage scenarios that are so common, any solution will need to be very.radical


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