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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.

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.

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

differences for children from poor families

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 smiling writing on a white board with a friend

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

boy school uniform smiling

Making school uniforms affordable

We campaigned for years to cut the cost of school uniforms and it finally paid off. Families can now afford to send their children to school in the right kit, without worrying if they will be bullied or sent home. 

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

The effects of poverty are wide ranging. We work with children who go missing to escape their cramped rooms, young people who join criminal groups to make money for mum, pupils who are bullied for not being able to afford their school uniform. 

The start you get in life impacts how you grow up and what chances you have. We work so every child has a fair shot at happiness and we won't rest until we've created a society built for all children.