According to Save the Children, there are an estimated 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK – 1.6 million in severe poverty. Even worse, this shocking figure is expected to rise by 400,000 by 2015.
A lack of jobs, stagnating wages, increased living costs and spending cuts are placing enormous pressure on families up and down the UK. The survey results set out in this report show that poverty leaves parents cutting back on food so their children don’t go hungry.
It leaves children without a warm coat or new shoes. It means they miss out on experiences that are central to a happy childhood, such as going on a family holiday or having a friend round for tea.
Families living in severe poverty often have to choose between heating and eating as they struggle to live on less than £15,000 a year for a household of a couple and two children.
The coalition government says it’s committed to ending child poverty by 2020. To meet the goals set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010, the government needs to lift approximately 100,000 children out of poverty each year for the next 10 years. Ending severe child poverty as soon as possible, and meeting the 2020 target to end child poverty entirely, must be a top priority for this government.
Growing up in poverty can dramatically affect a child’s life chances. At every stage of schooling, the poorest children do worse than their better off classmates. A pupil on free school meals is only a third as likely to succeed at every key stage at school compared to their better off classmates. The gap in development starts to emerge between children as early as age 22 months.
The question is how should the church help to end child poverty – what actually should our local church be doing to help bring an end to this horrific statistic?