Today marks exactly a year since the UK first went into lockdown.
On Monday, March 23, 2020, a national lockdown was put in place across the country.
The new restrictions were initially put in place for three weeks, with initial optimism that we could "turn the tide" on Covid-19 and “return to normality before Christmas”.
Fast forward to the start of 2021 and we are in the midst of a third national lockdown in under a year.
Thousands have lost their lives; the economy has been hit hard, schools and shops have been closed and loved ones have been kept apart. Many have had to miss or cancel key life events such as weddings and birthday celebrations. The toll of lockdown on the nation's mental health, is also at a critical point.
The way we work has also changed, those of us who have been able to, have spent the last year working from home. This has not been the case however, for the millions who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed.
Social issues have also come further into the foreground in the last year, as seen with the Black Lives Matter protests in the summer and by the reclaim the night vigils highlighting the violence faced by women.
Lockdown has also seen a widening in the gap between the poorest and the more well off, with children from low-income households struggling with home schooling. And we have tragically seen a rising number of domestic abuse cases with many children caught up in this.
The impact of COVID-19 on children in poverty cannot be overlooked.
Young people from poor backgrounds have always had to fight harder for their future. Before the lockdown there were already millions of children in poverty, who were sleeping in a cold bedroom, studying on an empty stomach, or missing out on trips with their friends.
The pandemic has made things even harder for the poorest children in our society. I know first-hand what it’s like to grow up poor, and whilst life was a real struggle for my family. I can only imagine how harder things have been for low-income families during the pandemic. Parents have struggled to put food on the table and many have told us they have had to rely on foodbanks.
Helping families like mine growing up, is a big part of why I wanted to work at Save the Children (SCUK), and at SCUK we are committed to supporting low-income families, that’s why we launched our Emergency Response to support families living in poverty and impacted by COVID-19. This has helped 6,398 families including 13,803 children.
Throughout the pandemic the government has supported low-income families by putting in place the furlough and introducing the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit. That’s why the Government’s decisions to bring these measures to an end in a few months’ time is so frustrating. We have argued that the poorest in society need to be supported for at least a year and not left to fend for themselves without the lifeline the uplift provides.
Let’s not forget that many of these families are working in key worker roles, which has kept the country going throughout the global health crisis.
Families have been hit hard by the pandemic
There are now twice as many people on Universal Credit than there was at the start of lockdown. The number of people who have been made redundant is now more than during the great recession of 2008. Five million workers have been furloughed, with no guarantee that they will go back to their jobs when furlough support ends.
The last year has been tough for all of us in the UK. But has also showed the nation at its finest, whether through the heroism showed by our NHS staff, the fearlessness showed by shopkeepers and delivery drivers, or the 750,000 people who signed up to volunteer for the NHS at the height of the pandemic. The British people understand the need to pull together during these tough times and that’s why 74% of the public support the uplift.
We need clarity from the government on what support will be in place for low-income families going forward. With the uplift set to end in a few months’ time many of the poorest in our society will still be unemployed and with even less money than they were already struggling to get by on. The Gov needs to do the right thing and keep the uplift in place to support low-income families for at least a year.