Children ‘slipping into poverty’ in cost of living crisis, charity warns

Children walking. PA
Almost a third of parents have fears about being made homeless and nearly half worry about keeping their house warm for their children, charity research has suggested. Credit: PA

Almost a third of parents have fears about being made homeless and nearly half worry about keeping their house warm for their children, charity research has suggested.

Barnardo’s said it is supporting children who are “slipping into poverty as a result of the cost-of-living crisis”.

The children’s charity polled 1,010 parents, 49% of whom said they are concerned about their offspring missing out on a normal childhood due to the need to make cutbacks amid price rises.

Some 30% of the parents across England, Scotland and Wales surveyed online in February in the YouGov poll said they are worried about being made homeless, and 49% voiced fears about keeping their home warm for their children.

Almost a quarter, 23%, said they had recently struggled to provide sufficient food for their children due to the cost-of-living crisis.

The charity cited examples of situations where parents were having to limit the number of their children’s baths and turn the heating off, forgo proper meals and instead opt to eat their children’s leftovers, and struggles to replace broken furniture such as beds.

Barnardo’s revealed 16% of parents said their children have had to share a bed with them, their partner or a sibling during the winter months.

To address problems for struggling families, the charity has insisted the government must extend free school meals to all primary school children in England, or as a minimum first step do so for those in families which rely on universal credit.

It also called for a strengthening of social security, including reviewing universal credit to ensure it is linked permanently to inflation.

Barnardo’s also called for a total ban on forced prepayment meter installations until new protections are introduced that ensure households cannot be disconnected.

There is currently a ban on energy suppliers installing prepayment energy meters under warrant but it is due to end at the end of March.

The charity’s chief executive, Lynn Perry, said: “Across the UK, Barnardo’s is supporting children who are slipping into poverty as a result of the cost-of-living crisis.

“Families who once had to choose between heating or eating are now worried about providing warm beds for their children or losing their homes altogether.

“As a charity we have responded by delivering clothes, appliances and vouchers to help thousands of families with everyday essentials. But we know this urgent support can only do so much.

Baby banks say children are only wearing one nappy a day because of families struggling with cost of living Credit: PA

“Children and young people were hit hard during the pandemic and many are now missing out on the basics.

“The government has a key opportunity with the Spring Statement next week to step in and support families who are struggling – starting with the introduction of extending free school meals in primary schools, so that every young child has at least one hot and healthy meal.”

A government spokesperson said they “recognise the pressures families are facing due to the rising cost of living” and have given “direct, targeted support to millions of vulnerable households”.

They added: “Our Household Support Fund continues to help families with essential costs and we remain committed to helping families at risk of homelessness – over half a million households have been prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation since 2018.

“Since 2010, the number of children receiving a free meal at school has increased by more than two million thanks to universal infant free school meals and protections for parents moving to Universal Credit.

"Our further investment in the National School Breakfast Programme also extends it for another year, backed by up to £30 million.”

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