Children’s charity key workers warn of ‘new wave’ of families set to be plunged into the ‘bleakest’ winter crisis

Kathy Oxtoby
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

As winter, the end of furlough and a second Covid outbreak loom, a new Action for Children report warns a wave of families who were ‘just about managing’ now face financial crisis.

Action for Children is asking for child benefit to be increased this winter.
Action for Children is asking for child benefit to be increased this winter.

A ‘new wave’ of families are set to face the ‘bleakest’ winter of their lives as parents already struggle to feed and clothe their children, a report by a children’s charity has warned.

Since lockdown began, Action for Children has been running an emergency appeal which has supported over 10,000 vulnerable children across the country in need of urgent essentials. Sixty three per cent of the fund was spent on families needing help with food, clothes, bills and learning resources.

While thousands of vulnerable families struggled even before coronavirus hit, the charity said ‘a new wave of families have found themselves in dire straits virtually overnight’ because of falling incomes and rising household costs. Seventy one per cent of those accessing the appeal didn’t have financial issues before the pandemic.

Around a third (32 per cent) of the fund was spent on families who needed emergency help to obtain learning resources to develop or keep up with schoolwork, particularly online teaching.

Even with the country’s businesses being propped up by the Government’s furlough scheme, one in five revealed they had seen at least one adult lose their job or have their pay cut, the charity said.

But as a possible second wave approaches, along with the furlough scheme ending and predictions of mass unemployment, two thirds (66 per cent) of the charity’s key workers fear families will become worse off over the next six months. 

Hundreds of Action for Children’s key workers across the UK have been delivering help to families in desperate and challenging circumstances with almost one in ten having to donate food from their own cupboards, and other reports of topping up food parcels with fresh nutritious food, or driving for long distances to collect it. 

The majority said they have also needed to provide extra emotional support for parents and children, with many having to work longer or unusual hours to get families and children the support they need.

As it launches its End Childhood Crisis campaign, the charity warned that ‘a generation of children are at risk of being scarred by poverty and now the pandemic’.

One mum said: ‘Our financial situation is shocking. I’ve had many sleepless nights worrying about money but Christmas is the one weighing down on me massively now – it’s there lingering in the back of my mind every day.’

Action for Children urged the Chancellor to use the November Budget to put a protective shield around struggling families by not withdrawing the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit in the Spring and by boosting Child Benefit this winter.

Carol Iddon, deputy chief executive at Action for Children, said: ‘We must prevent a generation of children from being scarred by poverty and the pandemic. We’ll be there to support them this winter, but the Government must put a protective shield around struggling families by ensuring that November’s Budget makes clear that Universal Credit will not be cut by £20 a week in the Spring.’

The charity’s Childhood during coronavirus: protecting children from the effects of poverty report is based on an analysis of 2,760 grant applications submitted to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund between 23 March to 31 July 2020.

For more information find the full report here

Support Action for Children’s End Childhood Crisis campaign here


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