“Have compassion for parents raising their children in poverty”
Today, Monday 14 March, families from some of the poorest parts of the UK travelled to London to visit No 11 Downing Street to deliver personal letters to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I’m inspired by the bravery of Jacqueline and nine-year-old Kyle from Cardiff, Saeed and seven-year-old Hannah from Manchester, and Julie and nine-year-old Josephine from Westminster in London. My colleagues at Save the Children and I are campaigning for the government to take emergency action to tackle severe child poverty in the UK. These families are helping us by telling of the reality of poverty in Britain. We now count 1.6 million children living in deep deprivation. Please join with us by doing what you can and email your MP now.
As Saeed makes clear in his letter to the Chancellor, living in severe hardship has an untold impact on children – “ We live on £150 a week and after I’ve paid the bills and done the food shopping, I usually have around £5 left. This means I can’t buy my daughter any clothes or books.”
The poverty trap
Children are growing up in homes where their parents are under such pressure. They’re going without basics – like decent meals, the right clothes, even heating. Inviting friends over for tea or having a birthday party – so important for social development – are simply out of the question because of the expense. These children are missing out not just on their childhoods, but on the chance of a fulfilled future. We can’t accept this being a reality for so many children in our own country in the 21st century. No child should be born without a chance.
The three parents who have come to London today – like hundreds of thousands of others – are trapped. They’re desperate to work but, for them, unlike most other parents, it’s just not possible. Julie puts it much better than I could: “I don’t want more money. I want the opportunity to not live in poverty. I’m not a lazy person – if there was a local job and I could fit it around the children I would take it.”
They’re trapped because there simply isn’t enough support for enormous childcare costs and, crucially, because there aren’t enough jobs around that they can apply for.
Time for an emergency plan
To co-incide with the three families’ visit to Downing Street today, Save the Children commissioned an opinion poll to gauge what the British public think, and whether they’re ready to see money set aside in these difficult times to help children like Kyle, Hannah and Josephine. The study found that 45% of adults agree that the Chancellor should set out a special plan in the budget to help children from low income households – even if this means there is less money to spend elsewhere.
By channelling job creation schemes into the parts of the country that need them most, and by reversing the cut to childcare support for low income families made last year, Chancellor Osborne would make a big difference to the children visiting his official residence today.
I leave you with Saeed’s closing plea in his letter to George Osborne. “I hope that you will listen to our needs and concerns when you put together the budget and have some compassion for parents trying to raise their children while living in poverty.”
Please help them by adding your voice to their calls on the Chancellor to act – email your MP now. Thank you.