Zoe* lives with her mum and four brothers and sisters. Their home is too small to provide beds for them all, so her mum has to sleep on the sofa.
As is the case with many vulnerable families, her mum Alice* suffers from mental health problems, including depression. Life is a fight for survival.
They cannot afford many of the basics. By the end of each month, even food is running short and sometimes the family goes hungry, with free school meals the children’s only proper food for the day.
At times Alice’s benefits have been stopped because she could not afford the bus fare to go to the benefit office and, at 30 minutes each way, it is too far to walk, given she also has to take Zoe to and from school every day.
Alice wants to work to provide her children with all of the opportunities they deserve, but she has struggled to find a job. Even if she could find work, she could not afford the child care.
By 2015, more than 1 million children in 'desparate conditions'
Over one million children will be living in desperate conditions like Zoe’s by 2015 if the government doesn’t take urgent action, a new report commissioned by us, Action for Children and NSPCC reveals.
The report In the Eye of the Storm: Britain’s forgotten children and families (full text, summary, methodology) for the first time exposes the impact of the recession and austerity measures on vulnerable children.
They will be hit the hardest by changes to tax and benefit, and significantly affected by other cuts in spending.
Large numbers of families across Britain are struggling
Overall, families will be the equivalent of £3000 worse off each year, pushing parents who are already struggling to cope with having to make choices between the fundamentals of life, such as whether to heat their home or put food on the table.
Large numbers of families across Britain are struggling with problems such as poor quality housing, poverty, neither parent in work – far more than the 120,000 families that the government estimates.
Although the government set up the Troubled Families Unit to address some of the problems that these families face, the effects of its austerity measures on children like Zoe, have largely been overlooked.
The government needs to stop children and their families from being pushed to the brink. By integrating policies that impact the country’s most vulnerable children, including in such key areas as housing, employment and social care, and protecting them from the effects of spending cuts and tax and benefit reform, vulnerable children will receive the support they need to have a good childhood.
- Join Fair and Square, our campaign to ensure all children in poverty receive a free school meal.
- Donate to support our work with young people.
- Read In the Eye of the Storm: Britain’s forgotten children and families (full text, summary, methodology)
*Names have been changed.