Over half of poor UK children denied key support to keep their homes warm

07 March 2014

More than half of all children in poverty are missing out on crucial help that could keep them warm, reveals shocking new analysis by The Children’s Society.

Nearly two million children in poverty are in families that are not getting the Warm Home Discount. This provides a £135 annual rebate on their fuel bills -  enough to cover a typical family’s energy bills for a month. 

The Children’s Society argues that this crucial support would help put an end to parents having to make harsh choices between giving their children a balanced meal and turning the heating on.

This spring, the government has the opportunity to make sure no child has to grow up in a cold home when it reviews its fuel poverty strategy and consults on the future of the Warm Home Discount. 

The Children’s Society is calling on the government to make the Warm Home Discount automatically available to all families with children who are living in poverty.

Although the government last week announced that it was extending the Warm Home Discount under its new child poverty strategy, in reality this will only increase the amount of time the programme runs by a year to 2015-2016. It does nothing to help the millions of children in need who are still missing out.

The Children’s Society’s new analysis reveals a stark picture for children living in poverty across the country, with an estimated 400,000 missing out on the discount in London alone. 

Of the 10 constituencies with the most children in poverty not receiving the Warm Home Discount, eight are in London. These are followed by Birmingham Hodge Hill in the West Midlands and Manchester Central in the North West. (Find our constituency and regional data.)

In Behind Cold Doors: The chilling reality for children in poverty, The Children’s Society found that more than three million families were likely to cut back on food this winter so they can pay their energy bills.  

And of the five million families that said that they were likely to turn their heating down because of the cost, more than half said they were worried that their children would become ill as a result. Our research shows cold homes can increase the chances of children having respiratory and other health problems.

The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive Matthew Reed said: 'It is alarming that huge numbers of children across the UK are growing up in a cold home. The scale of the problem, as these figures show, is truly appalling. The government must take decisive action now to move children in from the cold and help stop their parents from having to make this terrible choice between heating and eating.

'By making the Warm Home Discount automatically available to all children living in poverty, the government can give these families a lifeline to help them out of poverty, and they should do it now.'

New analysis commissioned by The Children’s Society from the Association for the Conservation of Energy shows that a typical couple with two children would now need to spend £1403 per year in order to heat their home adequately. This is more than 10% of the income of a family with two children on out of work benefits.

Constituency and regional data

For constituency data, please see our interactive Warm Home Discount map for the full breakdown.

Regional data is captured in our graph of children in poverty missing out on the warm home discount. All figures are estimates.

 

Ends

Media enquiries

For more information, please call Beth Herzfeld in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422, 07775 812 357 or email beth.herzfeld@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors

  • See our UK-wide Warm Home Discount map
  • The Warm Home Discount is a £135 rebate for low-income, vulnerable households. It is key to families not having to choose between heating their homes or feeding their children. Families living in poverty with children do not automatically get this key support. Many do not even know about it. And for others, even if they are in poverty, they may not qualify because they work or because their energy supplier’s scheme is no longer available for that year. As a result, these children are being left to grow up in cold homes. For more information see Behind Cold Doors: The chilling reality for children in poverty 
  •  Nearly two million children in poverty miss out on a Warm Home Discount primarily because the amount of support available for low income families is limited. Many families who desperately need the support don’t even know it exists. In other cases, families can miss out because they switch supplier between the point at which they apply, and the point the discount would be applied to their bill. By making sure all families with children living in poverty automatically get this support, these families wouldn’t need to apply to their supplier for support, and there would be no risk of them missing out on this vital lifeline that can help them out of poverty.
  • A typical family with two children heating their home to the recommended 21 degrees Celsius, spends £1,403 a year on energy bills according new analysis from the Association for the Conservation of Energy produced for The Children’s Society. For a family not in work, this is more than 10% of their income. 
  • 3.5 million children in the UK are living in poverty.
  • Six in 10 children living in poverty are in low-income working families.
  • By 2020 – the year by which the government committed to end child poverty – an estimated 800,000 more children will be living in poverty than today according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • The Children’s Society is supporting the first ever Children’s Commission on Poverty. It is being led by a panel of 16 children and teenagers from across England, ranging in age from 12 to 19 who are leading an 18-month investigation into child poverty in the UK. It provides a crucial platform for children to speak out about what poverty is really like and reveal, through their own eyes, the day-to-day challenges they face and what needs to be done.
  • The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. Someone who acts on their behalf and can help guide them through the extremely complex system. These children deserve to be kept safe so they can recover from the trauma they have suffered and rebuild their lives.