Leading children’s charities are calling on the Prime Minister to do more to protect children from a winter of hunger and hardship.
Chief Executives from The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, NSPCC, Save the Children, Action for Children and the National Children’s Bureau have written to Boris Johnson asking him to work with them to develop both long and short term measures to help vulnerable children and their families through this challenging winter and beyond.
Charity leaders said the Covid-19 crisis has already disproportionally affected low-income families, with many suffering income and job losses, while also facing the increased expenses of having children at home while schools were closed.
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said the pandemic has also highlighted the number of children living in digital poverty, who risk falling behind at school.
‘The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated deep-rooted inequalities in our society, and threatens to set vulnerable children back further.
‘The crisis is wreaking havoc on children’s mental health and wellbeing, putting more at risk at home, online and in the community, and means more families face a winter struggling to pay for food and fuel.
‘Those living in digital poverty are falling further behind with their education and missing out on key opportunities. Some groups face additional risks, like children caring for unwell relatives, young people leaving the care system, and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.
‘Today’s young generation face extremely complex challenges, and the pandemic must be a catalyst for real change. We stand ready to work with the government to design the short and longer-term solutions that will give the most vulnerable children the best possible chance of a positive future.’
The letter comes after what was an exceptionally difficult half term for thousands of children and their families, many of whom had no choice but to turn to the kindness of their local communities to stave off holiday hunger.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, warned that more families will have to rely on food banks as the country enters a second lockdown.
‘Even before the pandemic, millions of families were living in poverty with barely enough to get by on. Often these are working families whose incomes simply do not stretch to anything more than the basic necessities.
‘As we enter a second phase of national lockdown restrictions, we fear many more children will be swept into poverty, leaving their parents turning to food banks and hand-outs to make ends meet.
‘Yet while these low-income families struggle, the government is in denial, using data selectively to avoid addressing the problem. Families must be able to feed their children without losing their dignity and for that to happen the government must invest in proper social security.’
With public support for tackling child poverty at an all-time high, the charities are asking the Prime Minister to stand by his commitment to make sure that no child goes hungry this winter and to work with them to improve support for struggling families.
The charity leaders have urged the government to do more to stop poverty and inequality hampering children’s life chances.
The group, who work with some of the most disadvantaged children and families across the country, say the government must tackle the widespread problems and create an overarching strategy to reduce them.
Their solutions cover a wide range of areas, from extending the provision of free school meals, to investing more in children’s services, improving the welfare system and tackling educational inequalities.
Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said the government must make policy decisions that reflect the added pressure families are under as a result of the pandemic.
‘With winter on its way and more job losses expected, things are about to get even more difficult for families still reeling from the cost of lockdown.
‘Parents tell us they’re already having to go without meals or electricity when their money runs out, and many are worried that the cost of heating their homes through the winter will push them into even more debt.
‘Our country’s safety net is supposed to help those who need it through difficult times. The government must recognise the added pressure families are under right now, and make policy decisions that have our children’s best interests at heart.
‘At the very least, we urge the chancellor not to go ahead with plans to take away £1000 in benefits from low-income households next April, which would leave families with children in a desperate situation.
‘It’s clear we need a long term plan to tackle child poverty. It’s also clear that action is needed now.’
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