13 Jul 2014

The first inquiry led by children into the cost of attending school and its effect on children in poverty — supported by The Children’s Society —  begins questioning experts from today in Parliament (Monday 14 July).

The Children’s Commission on Poverty will question witnesses, supported by MPs and peers, over three days (14, 16, and 17 July). It will investigate how struggling families manage to bear the costs of school essentials such as lunches, uniforms and basic materials, including text books and access to computers.

The Commission is a unique opportunity for children to join forces and examine first-hand the stark realities facing thousands of families living below the poverty line. It comprises a panel of 15 children and teenagers from across England, ranging in age from 12 to 19, leading the Commission’s 18-month investigation into child poverty in the UK.

Children are being given a crucial platform to speak out about what poverty is really like and reveal and the day-to-day challenges they face , through their own eyes.

The proportion of children in poverty in the UK has nearly doubled in the last 30 years with 3.7 million children living in poverty across the country. Nearly two-thirds are in low-income working families.

Cyrus, a young commissioner, aged 14, said: 'We are holding an inquiry to try and find out the cost of things at school and the reasons for this. We want to achieve changes to help children living in poverty. So we invite you to tell us what you think and see in order to help us make changes.'

Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive, said: 'The crisis of child poverty is growing, yet children’s views have been largely absent from the poverty debate. Children’s ability to benefit fully from their education is critical to their future. Yet too often, children in poverty are missing out because of the costs involved.

'This must change if the huge problem of child poverty in this country is to be tackled once and for all. We need to see what school looks like through children’s own eyes.'

The Commission will be investigating the financial and emotional effects that the costs of school life have on children and their families. This includes the extent to which children and young people in poverty are – or feel – excluded from important areas of school life as well as how they are treated by fellow pupils, teachers and other school staff.

The evidence, oral and written, gathered during the inquiry will be analysed by the young commissioners who will publish the findings and recommendations this autumn so decision-makers listen to the voices of children.

The Commission is seeking written testimony as part of its inquiry from anyone concerned about this issue, including children and young people, parents and teachers and other school staff. Evidence can be submitted via our online form on the Commission's website:

http://childrenscommission.org.uk/submitting-evidence or by email to commissioninquiry@childrenssociety.org.uk. It can also be posted to:

The Children’s Commission on Poverty
c/o Jake McLeod
The Children's Society
Edward Rudolf House
Margery Street
London, WC1X 0JL

The deadline for submitting evidence is 5pm on Monday 28 July. For full instructions see the Commission's website.


Media enquiries:

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

Notes to editors:

  • The Children’s Commission on Poverty is holding its oral evidence sessions on school costs on 14 (free school meals), 16 (school uniforms) and 17 July (materials) from 14:30-16.00 in the House of Commons. Any media wanting to attend, please contact Beth Herzfeld at beth.herzfeld@childrenssociety.org.uk or call 020 7841 4422.
  • According to the latest official statistics, there are 3.7 million children in poverty. Figures are according to the relative low income measure, and are based on income after housing costs https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/households-below-average-income-hbai--2
  • From this September, the government will introduce free school meals for all infant school children, meaning 200,000 more children in poverty will get this key support. It is vital this key support is extended to the 500,000 school children living in poverty who will continue to miss out.
  • The Children’s Society is supporting the first-ever Children’s Commission on Poverty (http://www.childrenscommission.org.uk/ ). The commissioners want the government to draw on children’s actual experience – not just the statistics — when developing measures to tackle child poverty. The Children’s Commission on Poverty is being supported by The Children’s Society and led by a panel of 16 children and teenagers from across England, ranging in age from 12 to 19. They 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.
  • By 2020, the year by which the government committed to end child poverty, an estimated three quarters of a million more children will be living in poverty than today (http://www.ifs.org.uk/comms/r78.pdf ).
  • 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.