What are the effects of child poverty?

There are millions of children in poverty. Many come through it and achieve great things. However, it's not easy. Sleeping in a cold bedroom, studying on an empty stomach, missing out on trips with mates. Young people from poor backgrounds have to fight harder for their future. 

How does poverty affect children?

Children from poorer backgrounds may not have the same opportunities as other young people their age. Many will have to work part-time jobs on the side of school, they may not have access to the same learning materials, or they will miss out on trips with mates because they simply can't afford it. They have to work harder to overcome the obstacles that modern life puts in front of them.

differences for children from poor families

poverty and bullying

Bullying

Growing up in a household where money is tight can mean making do with a lot of things - second-hand clothes, basic food, hand-me-down textbooks. Children make the best of what they have but bullies often target those who look a bit different.

If a child goes to school in the wrong uniform, maybe it's last year's blazer or massively too small, they get singled out. Teachers send them home, classmates pick on them. They're made to feel different. 

More than a quarter of children from the poorest families said they had been bullied because their parents couldn't afford the cost of school

my mum couldn't afford a skirt so I wore trousers

boy brushing teeth

Children on the move

Living out of cardboard boxes, constantly trying to make new friends, not knowing where to call home - this is normal for children who grow up in insecure housing. 

Ali, nine years old, is one of those children. Throughout it all, he didn't stop smiling.

mental health

Mental health

Money worries can make anyone feel stressed, anxious and depressed. Parents may argue more or lose their temper more easily. Young people often don't let it show but it's a difficult environment to grow up in.

In some cases, children with a mental health issue won’t have the bus fare to get to a service that may help, so they have to battle it alone.

Children living around debt are five times more likely to be unhappy than children from wealthier families

girl working in classroom

poverty and school

School and friends

Living in poor households can make children feel unequal to others. This can then make them less hopeful about getting the job they want. They feel like they have to work twice as hard.

Children who get free school meals are less likely to get A*- C grades at GCSE than wealthier peers

It can also be tricky to form proper friendships. Repeatedly packing up their lives and moving home means that any bonds they do make could be short lived. Children tend to get on with it but it's hard moving from school to school.

If they do have friends, they won’t be able to afford to do all the things they want to do. Just getting a bus to the shops could be too expensive. 

I would rather the family get food than me get my own things

Gangs and exploitation

Many children take on the family's money worries. Some feel they need to step up and put food on the table. Criminals take advantage of this. They recruit these young people into gangs. 

Sometimes being in a gang is the only way to stay alive or to earn money

We also know that young people in poverty often go missing – to escape their cramped rooms or because of abuse or neglect. This  puts them at risk of being groomed and exploited

The effects of poverty on children are wide ranging. It's clear that the start you get in life can affect how you grow up and what chances you have. We won't rest until we've created a society built for all children.

girl looking at camera green hair

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