Poorest families are 'bearing greatest burdens of recession'

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The poorest children in British society are bearing the greatest burden of the recession, a report has revealed.

The poorest children in British society are bearing the greatest burden of the recession, a report has revealed.

The study, from charity Save the Children, finds that one in eight children living in poverty go without at least one hot meal a day.

One in 10 parents in poverty have cut back on food themselves to make sure their children have enough to eat, while a quarter have skipped meals in the past year because of financial worries.

The report, Child Poverty 2012: It shouldn’t happen here, focuses on the experiences of 1,500 children and 5,000 parents and the extent to which their lives are blighted
by poverty.

It finds that low-income families are being hit disproportionately by the government’s austerity measures and calls on the government to show the “political will” to tackle child poverty.

It is estimated that there are
3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK – a figure which is expected to rise by 400,000 in the coming years. The report defines living in poverty as having a family income of less than £17,000.

Save the Children says families are feeling the pressure of “a lack of jobs, stagnating wages, increased living costs and spending cuts”.

One in seven children said that their families could not afford to buy them warm coats or shoes for the new school term. A fifth of children said that they miss out on school trips because their parents haven’t got the money, while 80 per cent of parents admitted that they were borrowing more money for essentials such as food and clothes.

One low-income parent told researchers: “I’ve cut back to the bare bones and still the government wants to cut more. My son misses out on some school trips, which I just can’t afford. Sometimes I go without a meal so that my son
can eat.”

Another added: “We basically cannot do anything with our children that involves spending more than £10. We live off sandwiches so that our children can have the food and nutrients they need to grow.”

Save the Children says that witnessing the financial worries of their parents is placing an “impossible burden” on children, when they should be concentrating on school and their future careers.

The report states: “Low-income families are bearing more than their fair share of the financial burden faced by the country and are having to cope with cuts to welfare support, public services and a weak
labour market. 

“Our survey findings set out all too clearly the impact this is having on families in poverty and the damage it is doing to the wellbeing of children. This isn’t inevitable. The government has the tools it needs to address child poverty,
but must show the political will to do so.”

The report added: “It shouldn’t happen here. It is shocking to think that in the UK in 2012, families are being forced to miss out on essentials like food or take on crippling debts just to meet everyday living costs.”

Save the Children wants the government to do more to get employers to pay a living wage and also wants to see reforms to the welfare system strengthened so that low-income families keep more of their earnings and receive 80 per cent of their childcare costs.

Save the Children chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said: “No child should see their parent going hungry or start the new term without a warm coat and with holes in their shoes. Poverty is tearing families apart, with parents buckling under the pressure of mounting bills and children seeing their parents argue more about money.

“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.”

Save the Children has launched its first ever UK appeal to raise £500,000 to help children in poverty. It is also rolling out its Families and Schools Together programme to support more than 4,000 UK school children this year. Visit www.savethechildren.org.uk


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