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The UK’s poorest children reveal the bleak reality of life in recession-hit Britain

The UK's poorest children are bearing the greatest burden of the recession – having their parents go hungry to feed them, missing regular hot meals, unable to afford warm coats and new shoes and suffering enormous emotional strain, says Save the Children. 

In its major new report "It Shouldn't Happen Here", the charity highlights children's - as well as parents’ - experiences living in recession-hit Britain and the extent to which poverty is blighting young lives.

One in eight of the poorest children in the UK go without at least one hot meal a day, and one in ten of the UK's poorest parents have cut back on food for them to make sure their children have enough to eat, the report reveals.  Behind the projected increases in child poverty are the day to day struggles of families on low incomes - many of them in work, but still in poverty.  

In a snapshot of family life under pressure, the survey finds that children worry about their family not having enough money, with more than half of those living in poverty saying the lack of cash made their parents unhappy or stressed.  Almost a quarter of the poorest parents say they are arguing more or snap at their children because of their money troubles.

As children head back to school for the new term, one in seven of the poorest children surveyed say they have to go without a warm winter coat and new shoes when they need them. And nearly a fifth of children living in poverty say they miss out on school trips because their parents haven't got the money.  80% of parents admitted that they were borrowing more money for essentials such as food and clothes.   

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. Typical was Alison, aged 14 who said: "When I ask for stuff, my mum tells me to go away. I wish I could just get a whole load of money and give it to her."

Eleven-year-old Duncan told researchers: "My mum makes sacrifices so that I can do the hobbies I want to do to keep me off the streets. She cuts back on buying herself new shoes and clothes."

Save the Children spoke to more than 1500 youngsters and 5000 parents in their wide-ranging report.  The charity says it's aiming to raise £500,000 to help its work in the UK, targeting the poorest children - the first time it has appealed to the UK public for funds to help children at home.   

The charity is calling for the Government to encourage more employers to pay the living wage, so parents can earn enough to lift their children out of poverty; to strengthen the new welfare system - Universal Credit - by allowing working parents to keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn; and to help parents afford to work by providing extra child care support so 80% of costs are covered.    

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s Chief Executive, 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.  That’s why for the first time in our history we are launching a UK appeal. We need to help poor families survive the recession"

Mr. Forsyth 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.  All working parents should be able to earn enough to meet the basic needs of their children.  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."

"Child Poverty in 2012, It Shouldn’t Happen Here" also reveals for the poorest children:

§ 43% of children see their parents cutting back on things for themselves such as food and clothes (27% of low income parents say they skip meals because they can't afford food)

§ Over a third of children (36%) say their family struggles to pay the bills.  

§ 15% of children say they go without new shoes when they’ve grown out of their old ones, 14% go without a warm winter coat and 23% of parents say their children miss out on school trips because they can't afford them.

§ 29% of parents say they can’t afford to have their children's friends over for tea and 10% miss out on celebrating their birthday.

§ 13% have stopped asking for anything because they know their parents can’t afford it, with a further 25% only asking for things they really need.  

To find out more or donate please go to: www.savethechildren.org.uk/ukpoverty

For B-roll footage, interviews with families or spokespeople or further information please contact Save the Children’s media team on 0207 012 6841 or out of hours on 07831 650 409

Notes to Editors

-    Survey of children and young people: 1504 children aged 8 to 16 in 35 schools across the UK completed the online survey in classroom settings. Around half of these surveys where done in areas of high deprivation to ensure that a sufficient number of children from low income backgrounds completed the survey.  The data was weighted to adjust for the intentional over-sampling within deprived areas and weighted separately within deprived and non-deprived areas to ensure correct age and gender balance.  

-    Survey of parents: Carried out during May and June 2012 to understand the financial experiences of parents in the UK on low, middle and high incomes. Over 5000 parents responded to the survey.

-    Save the Children runs, Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play, providing basic essentials, cots, beds, cookers, toys and other items to low income families. http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/where-we-work/united-kingdom/eat-sleep-learn-play

-    Save the Children runs FAST (Families and Schools Together) programmed helping 4000 children in the most deprived areas get a good start at school.


-    61% of children in poverty have working parents compared to 45% in the mid-nineties.  

-    Lloyds Banking Group, Morrisons, Mothercare, Reckitt Benckiser and Johnson & Johnson are all supporting Save the Children's UK appeal through their collective workforce of over a quarter of a million employees.

-    You can make a donation at your local Morrisons store between 24th - 30th September when there will be bucket collections taking place at all stores across the country, in support of Save the Children's UK Appeal.

-    The Institute of Fiscal Studies prediction on child poverty: http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/comm121.pdf

- To donate via text you can text POVERTY to 70008 to donate £5

You will be billed £5 plus one standard rate text message per donation. We receive 99% depending on your network. To stop further communications from Save the Children please include NO INFO in your text.

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It Shouldn't Happen Here