Poverty’s threat to childhood revealed by new research
New research from Child Poverty Action Group shows child poverty’s heavy toll on children’s physical and mental health, their education and how they feel about themselves and their futures.
- Over three quarters of parents (79%) worry about not having enough money to provide for their family.
- 65% of children report money worries themselves.
- Over two thirds of parents (67%) say their children have too many money worries and challenges these days to be able to enjoy their childhood.
- The vast majority of parents (85%) believe that the UK Government needs to do more.
London, UK, 20 June 2023: New research released today from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows that it’s not only parents who are feeling the struggles of poverty but also children themselves. More than three in four parents (79%) worry about not having enough money to provide for their family with nearly two thirds of children (65%) also reporting financial worries, putting the innocence and magic of childhood in jeopardy.
Today, CPAG launches a short film illustrating the experiences of a child isolated by poverty and going without. Faced with an empty lunch box, he imagines a fantastical feast with friends. CPAG’s survey reveals that beyond food, families at the sharp end are having to jettison much of what makes up the quality of children’s lives.
The research conducted by Child Poverty Action Group surveyed 1,146 UK adults aged 18+ receiving means-tested benefits such as universal credit* and 332 children aged 14-17 years old in, or at risk of being in child poverty. The findings show the extent to which both parents and children are worrying about whether they can manage and what children are having to live without – from warmth in cooler months to extracurricular activities and chances to have fun with friends.
Worry runs deep
65% of children surveyed worry about their family not having enough money. We know that parents try to hide how stressful things are financially from their children (72% of parents said this), but the problem is so acute that it is no surprise that children pick up on this stress concealment. 68% of children realise their parents are trying to hide how stressful things are from them.
Similarly, while 44% of parents believe their children also feel upset or angry about how difficult life is due to a lack of money, the actual figure is higher with over half (56%) of children saying that they feel this way. This may be, at least in part, because more than half (56%) of children are worried that their family’s lack of money will affect their future opportunities as an adult. Parents share the concerns of their children in this respect with two thirds of parents saying they are concerned about the long-term prospects of their children.
Devastatingly, most parents are worried about how a lack of money affects their children’s mental health (56%). And just over half worry about the impact on children’s physical health (51%). Almost a third of parents (30%) say their children are getting a poor night’s sleep at least once a week due to family budgets. Both parents and children are worried about prospects at school: 56% of parents and 49% of children are worried that having less money makes it difficult for them to keep up at school.
Children are missing out on treasured and basic aspects of childhood
Children are missing out on a range of important social interactions specifically because of a lack of money. Over half of parents (58%) say their children miss out on socialising / going out with friends because of a lack of money, with 50% saying they miss out both on having friends round to their home, and going to friends’ parties.
Most poignant of all, both parents and children felt they missed out on the ordinary joys of life: days out (76% parents and 78% children); being able to buy things their friends have (76%/78%); trips to the cinema (75%/73%); family holidays (72%/72%); outings where there are transport costs (75%/72%); small treats (66%/64%) taking part in extra-curricular activities (70%/65%); and toys and games (66%/62%).
Families are going without
The findings show that the rising cost of living is taking its toll with over half (55%) of children reporting they have had to deal with being cold at home because of the rising cost of heating, and 56% of parents saying the price of food makes it difficult to ensure their children have healthy balanced meals. 46% of parents saying their children have had to wear clothes not suitable for the weather. Across a range of child poverty-related issues explored in the research, the cast majority (80% or more in each case) reported that the problems they face are persisting or getting worse.
What families want from the UK’s leaders
More than four in five (85%) of parents say that the UK Government needs to do more to help families struggling with money to have an acceptable standard of living, and three quarters of parents specifically say that the UK Government needs to provide more financial support to families.
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said:
Poverty is snatching the joy from children’s lives. Our findings show that children are facing a barrage of worries instead of experiencing the magic of childhood. This is no way for a child to grow up. Already 4.2 million** children are in poverty and the number is expected to rise. We are calling on the UK’s leaders to commit now to getting more money to families with the least –before more young hopes are dimmed. We can all imagine better than this—we know what the solutions are, and they start with removing two policies that have been causing harm: the two-child limit and benefit cap. And then investing in children by increasing child benefit by £20 a week, and rolling out free school meals for all pupils.
Delyth Bowen, Strategic Pastoral Support Lead at Stoke Heath Primary school in Coventry, comments:
We see children coming to school hungry and you can’t learn without food in your tummy. So something needs to be done. In school we try to avoid asking children what they did in the holidays now, because some families just don’t have money for public transport to go places - so children’s opportunities and life experiences are being affected.
The film was created by Creature London and directed by Adam Berg via Smuggler London LTD. To find out more about the Imagine campaign and watch the film click here.
For more information on the survey please contact:
For more information on Child Poverty Action Group or interview requests with CPAG spokespeople or teachers please contact:
Notes to editors:
The research design and analysis were conducted by Edelman DxI, an independent market research firm, in partnership with Child Poverty Action Group. Fieldwork was conducted by specialist recruitment agency Alligator Digital, between 23rd – 30th May 2023 for adults and 24th – 30th May 2023 for children. 1,146 UK adults aged 18+ receiving benefits such as universal credit* and 332 children aged 14-17 years old in, or at risk of being in child poverty in the UK, were polled in the survey.
* Universal Credit, Income Support, Working tax credit, Housing benefit, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance
About Child Poverty Action Group
Child Poverty Action Group works on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our vision is of a society free of child poverty, where all children can enjoy a childhood free of financial hardship and have a fair chance in life to reach their full potential. We use our understanding of what causes poverty and the impact it has on children’s lives to campaign for policies that will prevent and end poverty – for good. We provide training, advice and information to make sure hard-up families get the financial support they need.