Cost of living crisis: Families are forced to make difficult decisions

Sunday 05 November 2023
tired mother leans against kitchen wall, while rocking child to sleep

Food insecurity, rising energy prices and the cost of living crisis are forcing families to make daily decisions that are impossible

The rising prices we’re seeing today are overwhelming families. It’s becoming impossible for parents to meet even the basic needs of their children. The cost of living crisis is causing families to cut their budgets – many of which were already small to begin with.

We’re also seeing that families who’ve never needed financial support before are desperate for it now. One small change can leave a family completely vulnerable.

Three families share their stories.

Skipping meals to feed their children

Teenage boy sitting at a kitchen table eating soup served by his father (small)

"My partner has recently become sick and as a result I've had to leave work. We’ve been relying on food banks to get by and been eating smaller portions to make what we have last longer. When my children go into the kitchen to look for food, all I see is their disappointed faces as they find the cupboards empty.

“One evening, I only had enough food to feed the children. Usually I'd skip dinner, but I noticed there was some of the children’s cereal left. I didn’t know what to do. I was really hungry, so wondered if I should have a small bowl or not? But if I did they'd go to school hungry in the morning.”

Decisions like this are something no family should have to make. But some have no other choice. Food prices have risen by 9.9% in the 12 months from June 2021—June 2022. Parents are forced to skip meals, in order to provide their children with the very basics.

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Who gets new clothes?

Mother helping son put on school shoes on the stairs

“We’re already struggling to stay afloat as we’re relying on just one small income. In order to save money, I’ve been walking to work. It’s about an hour walk, but I don’t have the appropriate coat or shoes. I show up to work every morning cold and wet.

“I need new clothes, but my son came home with his school shoes broken. He’s growing so much, so I already knew he’d need some new shoes soon but wasn’t expecting it to happen this week. I’ve not bought my children new clothes for so long. But I need new clothes too.”

Millions of families are cutting costs anywhere they can. Between March—June 2022, 29 million people reported cutting back on non-essential journeys in their vehicle. Our staff are also seeing families struggle to pay for school uniforms this year. They've been prioritising their money elsewhere.

How is the cost of living crisis impacting children?

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Going to bed hungry or cold

Little boy resting on his mother’s chest with his baby brother and father in the background

“Now it’s getting colder, I’ve been really worried about our bills going up. I’ve been only turning on the heating in the living room to save costs – so we spend most of our time in there. I always pay all the bills as soon as I’ve been paid. But what’s left is so hard to spread over the month. Living on so little makes budgeting really difficult.

“But this month we had some money left over. It’s not much, but this never happens. I was lost on what I should do. Do I use the extra money to spend it on heating the house more or buy more food?”

45% of adults who pay energy bills reported they found it very or somewhat difficult to afford them. From March–June 2022, around 24 million people were reducing energy usage in their homes. Families can’t stretch their budgets any further.

Child poverty is not inevitable.

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Families are stuck

The cost-of-living crisis is forcing millions of families across the UK to choose between impossible decisions every day. So it's no surprise that for these families, making happy memories seems out of reach. How do you a give a child a Christmas to remember when you're going without food so they can eat? How can they experience the magic of Christmas if it's just another day to go to bed hungry and to wake up cold?

With your help, we can be a vital lifeline for desperate families with nowhere to turn.


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