5 Jul 2012

logos of Action for Children, The Children's Society and NSPCC

We are joining with Action for Children and NSPCC to warn of a dramatic rise in disadvantaged children and families

A coalition of the UK’s leading children’s charities warns today that the number of children living in vulnerable families in Britain will rise markedly to over one million by 2015(1), unless critical action is taken urgently(2).

Action for Children, NSPCC and The Children’s Society have come together and commissioned joint research(3), which calculates the impact of the recession and austerity measures on vulnerable children for the first time.

In the Eye of the Storm: Britain's forgotten children and families (full text, summarymethodology), released today, reveals that the most vulnerable families with children will be disproportionately affected by tax and benefit changes and significantly affected by other cuts in spending. Overall by 2015 vulnerable families will be £3000 worse off each year(4) as a result of these measures.

The report reveals that a large number of families are struggling with problems such as unemployment, depression, poor quality housing and poverty, far more than government estimates suggest(5).

Particularly worrying is the projected increase in the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families. Although currently fewer than 50,000, the number of children living in these families is set to almost double by 2015, to 96,000(6).

What we, Action for Children and NSPCC want to happen

The charities, which together help over 400,000 children, are calling on the government to protect children better from the effects of the recession, sharp cuts to public services, and major changes to the tax and benefits system, so children are not put at further risk.

Specifically the charities want to see:

  • Integrated policies  across government, in particular  housing, health, employment, education and welfare, to make sure vulnerable children are better protected
  • An urgent assessment of how any further spending cuts, or tax and benefit reform, could impact on children
  • A commitment to track and report back on the number of children living in vulnerable families.

Although the government’s Troubled Families Unit was set up to address some of the problems that vulnerable families face, the charities warn that the impact of the austerity on children has largely been overlooked.

'Austerity measures are hitting the most disadvantaged children the hardest'

Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children said: 'The government needs to ensure that children are not the victims of austerity and there is still time to get it right. Children are the future, and it is hugely disappointing that the parents of tomorrow are not being taken care of today. This report clearly shows that children are caught up as the innocent victims in austerity measures, and much more needs to be done to protect them. Through our own services we are already seeing first-hand the damaging effects taking their toll. This report is an opportunity for the government to take stock of their decisions so measures are taken with children futures in mind.'

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: 'The government's austerity measures are hitting the most disadvantaged children in our society the hardest. When too many children go to school hungry, have no permanent home or proper shoes, it is clear we are not all in this together. These latest figures make shocking reading and must act as a wake-up call to those with the power to reverse this trend.'

Andrew Flanagan, CEO of the NSPCC, said: 'We all expect to bear some of the austerity but it seems the most vulnerable children are bearing the brunt. This will make the job of turning their lives around even harder. Our services are pioneering new ways to support the most vulnerable children but against a rising tide. We have to act to ensure that tomorrow’s adults do not pay the price for today’s mistakes.'



In the Eye of the Storm: Britain's forgotten children and families:

Media enquiries

Beth Herzfeld, Media Officer, The Children’s Society, 020 7841 4422 / 07810 796 508, or email beth.herzfeld@childrenssociety.org.uk

Priya Shah, Media Relations Consultant, Action for Children, 020 3124 0662 / 07738 257 820 or email priya.shah@actionforchildren.org.uk

Adrian Brown, Senior Media Officer, NSPCC, 020 7825 2835 / 07976 206 625 or email: adrianbrown@nspcc.org.uk

Notes to editors

Action for Children:

  • Action for Children was founded in 1869 and supports and speaks out for the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected children and young people, for as long as it takes to make a difference in their lives. We work in local communities with 50,000 young people and their families through 480 children’s projects across the UK. Action for Children is committed to helping children and young people as early as possible, offering long term solutions and campaigns to change the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable and neglected children and young people.

The Children’s Society

  • Founded in 1881, The Children’s Society works with nearly 50,000 children and young people each year across England, through 75 programmes and children’s centres, offering care, respite, legal support and mentoring schemes that help turn lives around. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways and to giving a voice to disabled children, helping young refugees to rebuild their lives and providing relief for young carers. We aim to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.


  • The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children started in 1884 and over the last 125 years has been at the forefront of child protection. The NSPCC's vision is to end cruelty to children in the UK. We campaign to change the law, provide ChildLine and the NSPCC Helpline, offer advice for adults, and much more. To find out more and support our work go to the NSPCC website.


  1. A rise from 885,000 in 2008. (Return to text.)
  2. This refers to the number of children living in vulnerable families – with four or more of the following different risk factors: worklessness; poor housing conditions; neither parent having a qualification; mother with mental health problems; at least one parent having a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity; the family having a low income, 60 percent below the median; or material deprivation where families cannot afford basic food and clothing. (Return to text.)
  3. The charities commissioned Landman Economics to establish how these families will be affected both by the adverse economic conditions and changes to tax and benefits over the coming years, and wider measures. (Return to text.)
  4. A family living on the poverty line has a disposable income of £13,052 per year (before housing costs) according to the Households Below Average Income report 2010/2011. (Return to text.)
  5. The government has estimated that there are 120,000 ‘troubled families’ in the UK, based on the number of families with five or more risk factors.  However the threshold of ‘five or more’ is entirely arbitrary and a slightly wider definition of four or more risk factors results in more than three times as many vulnerable families. (Return to text.)
  6. Extremely vulnerable families are defined in the report as being those with six or seven different risk factors. (Return to text.)