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UK: Helping families through the toughest times

By Rona Blackwood, head of our Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play! programme

Michelle, 41, with her children Grace, 12, and Zacch, 3, in the park.
Michelle, 41, with her children Grace, 12, and Zacch, 3. The family received a fridge from Save the Children’s Eat Sleep Learn Play! programme (Jo Metson Scott/Save the Children)

More than one in four children in the UK lives in poverty and the situation is getting worse.

Too many families lack basic household items such as a cooker to make a nutritious hot meal, a bed for a good night’s sleep or books and toys so children can play and learn at home.

That’s why Save the Children runs the Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play! programme. We provide families in crisis with the basic household items that most of take for granted, and that are crucial for any household where children are growing up.

Poverty ruins childhoods

Poverty is hard enough for adults but for children it’s much worse. It affects their health, emotional wellbeing, development and potential for educational achievement.

Even in the UK, with its wealth and social support system, poverty  ruins childhoods and destroys futures.

We know that children that grow up in poverty are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from chronic illness than their wealthier peers and their life expectancy is liable to be shorter by 13 years.

Lacking the necessities

For children, growing up poor can often mean going without necessities:

• Sleeping on a mattress on the floor because their parents can’t afford a bed

• Wearing dirty clothes to nursery or school because their family can’t pay for a washing machine

• Eating cold meals because there is no money to replace a broken cooker.

As many as 2.7 million children still lack the basics so many of us take for granted. Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play! is a simple yet far-reaching programme which makes a real difference to children’s lives.

• A bed gives a child a good night’s sleep – essential for their growth and development

• A washing machine allows a parent to ensure their child attends nursery or school in clean clothes

• A cooker enables children and their families to eat a hot, nourishing meal together.

Michelle’s story

“I needed a new fridge,” says mum-of-two Michelle. “The old one was leaking and the door was opening on its own. I’d had it such a long time.

Things were defrosting, milk was going off and food was being wasted. I had no idea how I was going to get the money and then it was like a guardian angel knocking at the door.

It was amazing. When the fridge came we were so excited, we could have cried. Now we can function. It means we’re able to eat decent food. It’s been a life-saver.

Improving children’s futures

Eat, Sleep, Learn, Play! addresses the immediate needs of children but it also improves their futures: a good night’s sleep, hot food and educational toys bring these children closer to fulfilling their potential.

So far we have helped more than 30,000 children but there are still many more who need our help. By giving families assistance when times are tough, we can ensure more children get a good start and a fair chance in life.

And that’s the gift that every child should receive.

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