Childhood crisis this Christmas as basics hard to come by

Action for Children has warned that some of the youngest children in the UK are facing a childhood crisis as three pupils in every primary school class will be deprived of the basics this Christmas.

Following analysis of official figures, the charity has warned that almost one million under-10s from low-income families face a festive season with little to celebrate, lacking basics such as a heated home, warm winter coat or fresh food.

New research from the charity also shows that parents below the breadline are able to spend on average just £2 a day per child on food, often struggling to afford nutritious food vital for health and development. With no free school meals available during the school holidays, this leaves many worse-off families struggling to afford their children’s lunch. With a typical primary school meal in the UK costing £2.30 a day, it means parents can barely afford lunch, let alone breakfast and dinner.

Julie Bentley, the charity’s chief executive, said: “No parent should have to face the awful prospect of their youngster sitting in the cold without a plate of food to eat at the end of a school day, or skip dinner themselves so their child has a meal. Politicians are telling us austerity has ended but every day at Action for Children our frontline services say child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember. While some families will spend the Christmas holidays putting their children to bed early to keep warm because they can’t afford to heat the house, for others it has become the norm not have a winter coat, rely on foodbanks, or for their children to miss out on hot meals.

“The next government must deliver ambitious policies to end child poverty and bring in a National Childhood Strategy to give all our children a safe and happy childhood. But until every family has enough money to keep their child warm and well fed, we will continue to help them. That’s why we’re asking the public to get behind our Secret Santa campaign to help us support our most vulnerable children, not just at Christmas but every day.”