How is the cost of living crisis impacting children?

Friday 03 November 2023
Sad daughter being comforted by her dad

As the cost of living crisis worsens, vulnerable children and families are being pushed to the edge

Courtney Sutton is one of Action for Children’s Family Support Practitioners at the Early Childhood and Family Service in Norfolk. Courtney supports families where children are suffering at the hand of the cost of living crisis.

Courtney (pictured below) shares with us what she sees every day.


This crisis means more children will be going to school hungry and going to bed cold. Children are already feeling anxious and worried because of the stress at home, and it's only going to get worse.

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Children are going without

Courtney can recall countless heart-breaking stories from the children and families she works with. Stories of children going to bed hungry. Stories of children going to school without a proper uniform. Stories of parents breaking down in tears.

But one family’s stood out:

“We’re working with a family who are on a low income. They aren’t entitled to public funding and they’re in a rented one-bedroom flat costing £1000 a month,” Courtney said. “The family rely on dad's income, but mum has now returned to work to support the family – just three months after having a baby.

“The family have received support with transport, reducing their isolation and welcoming them back into the community due to having no support network. Without Action for Children, the family would have struggled for basic food and essentials.”

Mum and dad take a sefie with their baby at the beach

Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated case. Families across the country aren’t able to stretch their incomes any further. The cost of living is rising, but these families have already cut their budgets down to the bare minimum. And it’s still not enough.

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More families than ever need financial support

In Norfolk, where Courtney works, the child poverty rate ranges from 22.1– 32.5%. Childhood poverty across the UK has been increasing for years, and the cost of living crisis is only making things worse. We've never seen our services in such high demand.

“As a service, our resources are really stretched. All of our staff members are working at capacity,” Courtney explained. “The number of families who come to us in desperate need of help is increasing by the day.”

Parents [at] our service are really desperate for our support. I think they are all feeling very scared of what the future holds.

Many of those who come to the service need financial support. Some never needed financial help until the cost of living crisis. But now without it, their children suffer. We provide support ranging from food vouchers and emergency funding for bills to debt and budgeting advice.

“Particularly this year, we found that parents are also struggling to pay for school uniforms,” Courtney added. "They've been prioritising the money to go towards things like food, and they've had to access support to pay for school uniforms for the children.”

Courtney placing tinned food into a clear box

Children’s mental wellbeing is suffering

Parents are stressed, and their children notice it.

Parents have said they feel overwhelmed when entering a supermarket due to rising food costs and prices. Courtney noted, “Parents have shared with me that listening to the news on radios and TV about the cost of living and energy cap rising is causing them distress.”

Nearly half (47%) of children from low-income families we surveyed told us that they worry about their family’s finances. Children's stress levels are rising. And it’s presenting itself through challenging behaviours at home and at school.

“[With our support], children go to school feeling less stressed and less worried about their parents,” Courtney said. “Meaning that they’ll have better retainment while at school... They can play with their peers on the playground and enjoy the lessons without having those worries at home.”

Families fear for the future

Last winter, we found that the rising food bills and energy prices were viewed as the main causes of financial insecurity. 95% of staff predicted that this would only get worse. And that's exactly what we’re seeing happen.

Right now, children are suffering, and families are frightened of what's next to come, and so am I.


“For families, winter months are going to bring fear,” Courtney shared. “Fear of not being able to pay for energy bills to keep the children and themselves warm.”


Children are in crisis

The cost of living crisis is affecting too many children. Families shouldn’t have to choose between eating meals or paying bills. Parents shouldn’t need to skip meals to feed their children. But this is what our staff, like Courtney, witness every day.

At Action for Children we’re here when families can’t afford the basics. We top up the gas meter when the house feels cold. Put food on the table so no one in the house goes hungry. We’re a vital lifeline for desperate families with nowhere to turn. You could help us do even more.


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