Footballers have dominated much of the news this week, and not just because the Premier League is back on TV.
Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend free school meals to children throughout the summer holidays was an incredible achievement, and will provide a safety net for many families over the summer. It has also sparked a national debate about what we can all do to ensure all children growing up have the right to a good childhood, with opportunities to learn and play, and free from hunger.
The most powerful aspect of Marcus’ campaign was his ability to speak from the heart to share the experiences of families living in poverty in the UK. Nothing breaks through the busy news cycle more than hearing personal stories, which resonate with so many of us.
The reality for UK families living in poverty
At Save the Children, we know the reality for families living in poverty here in the UK. This pandemic has brought home to many the everyday challenges those living on low incomes face. As Aneita, a single mother from London who’s been campaigning alongside Save the Children, wrote so poignantly this week, ‘It scares me how many parents and children are being forgotten right now.’
Barbara and her husband Harry, who have one daughter and care full-time for their 11-year-old grandson, started receiving Universal Credit after Harry fell ill with Coronavirus and was unable to work. She says:
“Financially, it’s just a nightmare. After the bills are paid and you’ve got the food in, there’s just no money left. There’s just no money.
“It’s the children that suffer. There are certain basics that children need, and if they need a new pair of shoes or something it means taking out a loan – and then you’re getting deeper into debt.”
The impact of Covid-19
As Barbara describes, the impact of Covid-19 on families with young children is profound. The impact on children’s learning has been well documented. Now our new research, which we worked with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on and published this week, has found that parents with children who were in poverty pre-crisis are 50% more likely to have lost their jobs than those with children but not in poverty.
Those families who have become unemployed have lost around £50 per week – equivalent to about a week’s family food shopping. These experiences have forced many families to cut back on buying essentials – such as food and nappies – and pushed some into taking on debt.
Poverty has a dramatic impact on children’s lives. We must pull together now to ensure families have enough security to stay afloat through this pandemic.
A lifeline for children
That’s why we’re calling for the government to provide a lifeline for children. Together with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation we are calling for an urgent, temporary £20 increase to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit. This is equivalent to £2.85 a day per child.
In line with other crisis support, we recommend that this is put in place immediately and remains in place until April 2021. If implemented from July, this would support up to 4 million families and 8 million children.
The extension of free school meals was a big step forward – but it’s only the start. Covid-19 is undoubtedly the biggest challenge this country has faced for a generation, and we must not forget the impact it will have on children.
Now is the time to throw children in poverty a lifeline - sign our petition and help families get through this crisis and change the future.