Buttle UK is a charity named after Frank Buttle that has been giving grants to help children and young people in need across the UK since 1953. With over 60 years experience the charity is in an ideal position to chart and report on the changes that have occurred in child poverty across the UK.
So Buttle UK commissioned a report, which used their dataset of grant giving, to investigate plight of the 3.9 million most disadvantaged and vulnerable children living below the breadline.
The comprehensive report, published in July, sets out the current reality of living on low incomes in the UK today, demonstrating the huge challenges facing the most disadvantaged families that are being forced to make impossible choices for their children – between meals, warm clothes and heating their homes.
Findings from the report include:
The profile of those families that are struggling most is changing.
There have been some positive aspects the economic recovery—more people are in work than ever before. However, at the same time there has been a big shift in those classed as experiencing ‘in-work poverty’, a rise of 1.1 million people since 2010/11. As a result, two thirds of those children classified as poor are so despite the fact that at least one of their parents is in work. More people are living in private rented housing, where the costs are high and the tenancies lack stability. The changing pattern of housing tenure, and the increasing insecurity in the housing market, is illustrated by a staggering 60% rise in the number of evictions by private landlords, between 2010/11 and 2015/16
Low-income families are the hardest hit by recent economic changes and are subject to a ‘poverty premium’.
Benefits have been frozen but prices are rising, adding increasing pressure to weekly budgets. Child benefit will have risen by just 2% between 2010 and 2020, compared with projected price rises of 35%. At the same time they are subject to the ‘poverty premium’, where they are paying proportionately more for basic goods and services because of their lack of access to cheaper credit, better energy tariffs or deals that otherwise penalise low usage, or the inability to buy in bulk. Their insurance premiums are higher because of where they live, and these places are often ‘ATM deserts’ where the only access to a cash machine will mean a fee. A calculation by the End Child Poverty Coalition found that the costs added to the annual budget for a typical low-income family could be as much as £1,700 per year.
Northern cities are among the UK’s most crisis-stricken
Almost half (44%) of families in crisis lack basic material items such as beds, washing machines and children’s clothing.
Lone parents account for nearly two thirds (63%) of crisis cases.
Requests for support spike during summer months as families feel pressure of not having school support and free meals.
Parents have to make choices between spending money on food, bills or their children
These combined pressures make the reality of everyday life incredibly challenging. Children themselves are isolated and lack forms of engagement and stimulation beyond the home. Their diets are poor. When money is so tight, the ability to meet basic material needs is an ongoing battle: a cooker or washing machine breaking down — or moving into a new unfurnished property—can create a crisis.
This is a welcome report and adds to those by both the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Resolution Foundation that detail the many economic and other complex issues that far too many face, whilst providing practical policy solutions to government and the third sector. The full report is available from Buttle UK.