UK child poverty in their own words

What's it like to be a child living in poverty in Britain today? Or a parent who can't give their children the basics the rest of us take for granted like adequate heating or plentiful nutritious food? Below, children, young people and parents share their experiences of poverty.




Photographers: Simon Roberts, Liz Hingley, Laura Pannack, Abbie Trayler-Smith/Panos and Carol Allen Storey

Free school meals

“It’s not really free schooling because you need to pay for your kid to get something to eat, whether it’s pack lunches or whether it’s school meals. If every child in Scotland was to get a free school meal regardless of their parents’ income then that would help to eradicate child poverty, because even if you’re working you still struggle [to pay for the meals].”


“I’ve had difficult issues before with childcare because I had to leave my last job when the summer holidays came up because I didn’t have nobody to watch the kids.”

“It would cost as much anyway – you wouldn’t be any better off by the time you’ve paid your childcare. …So there is no incentive there.”

Fuel poverty

“Gas and electricity prices are higher for people who use a pre-payment card or key. …there needs to be money in and if you are even a day late in putting money in then you get charged and that starts a cycle of debt. It’s a case of either heating or food – one or the other.”

Doing without

“I’d be quite happy with an extra £30 or £20 a fortnight just to be able to treat myself to something nice, [to] be able to get my shopping and my electric [bill] to last me two weeks and then have enough to buy something that I never normally buy.

"Buying fruit and vegetables, that’s getting harder as well. I mean you’ve got these tokens, but you’ve got to be pregnant and on income support. Why can’t everyone have them tokens? We all need to eat fruit and vegetables so why can’t everybody have them?

Find out more about child poverty

Read about our work in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Visit the End Child Poverty Coalition website, or the Family Action.

Read the book Why Money Matters: Family income, poverty and children’s lives, for up-to-date evidence and a compelling look into the root of this cause.

Your story

If you want to share your own experience of living in poverty in Britain, please contact Carol Lever at