Child poverty 'beginning to look like a state of emergency'

The charity Buttle UK warns that more children are living in poverty now than at any other time in the past 10 years. Many lack childhood essentials such as beds and friends visiting their homes to play.

Adi Bloom

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Almost 4 million children across the UK are now living below the breadline, with many families having to choose between paying bills and eating, according to a report published today.

The report, by charity Buttle UK, says that more children are living in poverty now than at any other time in the past 10 years. 

Gerri McAndrew, Buttle UK chief executive, said: “While this is not a state of emergency, it is beginning to look like one. Urgent action needs to be taken.”

In its annual report, Buttle UK highlights the fact that 3.9 million children in the UK are now living below the breadline.

Two-thirds of these disadvantaged families have at least one parent in work, raising questions about low pay, zero-hour contracts and benefits cuts, the charity said.

Almost half – 44 per cent – of families in crisis lack essential items such as beds, washing machines and children’s clothing. And there has been a 60 per cent rise in families evicted from private rented accommodation over the past five years.

And almost none of the children in the families interviewed by Buttle UK ever had other children around to play.

'Impossible choices'

Ms McAndrew said: “Our report clearly shows that families with limited incomes are under increasing pressure and are being forced to make impossible choices for their children – between healthy meals, warm clothes and heating their homes.”

Many families said that the situation worsens during the summer months. The report states: “Families who receive school support, such as free meals, have to adapt to having children at home for several weeks. This can affect work and shift patterns and result in the added expenditure of days out and activities.”

In fact, Buttle UK records show that, for six of the past 10 years, August and July have been among the three months of the year during which grant applications were at their highest.

One parent told the charity: “Summer is the most difficult time of the year for me. Schools are closed and I have to look after my children constantly. Outdoor activities can be expensive.”

Hidden poverty

This year, the highest number of Buttle UK grants were made to cities in the North of England, the Midlands and Scotland. However, the report also highlights risks of hidden poverty, often in unexpected areas, such as the southern counties of Berkshire and Hampshire.

The report adds that a grant to a family could reduce absence and exclusion from school, and reduce the likelihood of crime and anti-social behaviour among children and teenagers.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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