Child poverty is real. It ruins childhoods and damages children's life chances. What can be done to change this?

We must act now

The government can no longer remain blind to 3.9 million children living in poverty

Sign our open letter

There are children living in poverty in your neighbourhood, probably even in your street. About 3 in 10 of all children in the UK are growing up in low-income households.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the tools to fix this – the policy solutions already exist. Direct financial support is needed to stop children suffering. We can cut child poverty if we want to.

What is poverty?

Poverty is a lack of money that leaves families struggling to:

  • Afford the essentials.
  • Enjoy a decent standard of living.
  • Share the simple family experiences that all children should get to enjoy.

How is child poverty defined?

Child poverty means dependent children are growing up in families with incomes below 60% of the average. This is known as relative poverty and can be measured either before or after housing costs are considered.

At Action for Children, we define child poverty using relative poverty after housing costs are included.

Action for Children Natalia Chloe case study

Natalia, mum to one-year old Chloe, received support from Action for Children after needing to skip meals to afford the essentials.

“Living on so little makes budgeting really difficult. I’m still using a foodbank every week to make sure Chloe has enough to eat. I often go without food to make sure she has enough, and I regularly eat cereal for a main evening meal... 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. Now, I’ve lost £20 a week in Universal Credit – that’s such a lot of money to me.”


What are the effects of child poverty?

Poverty is not just about having enough money. It is damaging to all aspects of children's lives:

  • Mental Health: They worry about their parents and are scared about their future. They feel left out and embarrassed.
  • School and friends: Being unable to have friends over, afford the correct school uniform, or go on school trips can make school difficult.
  • Family life: Their families cannot afford holidays and days out. Because they do not have enough food, children see their parents hungry. At home, there’s issues of overcrowding and lack of space.
  • Education: Children will show up to school tired and are more likely to underachieve at school. In the long run they face having fewer job prospects.

Not every child and family will have the same experience of poverty. But across the UK, too many are facing its cruel realities. That’s why we are campaigning for a social security net that's strong enough to protect everyone who needs it.

What are we calling on the government to do?

Our frontline staff have told us that child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember. We need the government to acknowledge:

  1. Child poverty is real, and it matters. It stems from a lack of income, and it’s the government’s job to prevent it.
  2. Child poverty has a negative impact. A lack of money, and subsequent limiting life experiences, ruins the lives of children and their families.
  3. It’s not just about getting parents into work. In-work poverty is a rising reality for many. Not everyone can work their way out of poverty.
  4. Our social security system should protect all families from harm. Regardless of circumstance, it should be strong enough to support anyone who needs it.
We must act now

The government can no longer remain blind to 3.9 million children living in poverty

Sign our open letter

We are here to support you. For information on the services and help we provide:

  • call us on 0300 123 2112, or
  • search to find out what services are local to you.

Have you experienced any difficulties with mental health and wellbeing, behaviour, education or anything else that’s worrying you? You can speak to our trained parent coaches for help and advice. It’s all free, and no topic is too big, small or embarrassing.

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