Taking from already impoverished families will leave children helpless

Why punish the children by trapping them in poverty so they are likely to fail at school and become trapped in a cycle of unemployment?

Share
Fact File
  • 75 per cent Of families said food poverty was impacting on their children’s health and well-being
Related Topics

This Christmas marked the end of a truly awful year to be a child in poverty in Britain.

As the Chancellor rounded off 2012 by announcing plans to sever the link between benefits and inflation – arguably the biggest attack on the welfare state yet – I was drafting a short report on some of his targets; the families and young people who are too poor to feed themselves.

Food vouchers are an ‘emergency service’ which Barnardo’s provides to families and young people via local churches and organisations like the Trussell Trust. Families almost universally report they are ashamed to use the service, and when they reach the point where they ask for help they will have exhausted their own resources and will often have borrowed from family and friends too.

Recently we took a ‘snapshot’ survey of our food voucher services, and the families that use them – the results make harrowing reading. Sixty five per cent of services had seen an increase in families needing food vouchers, and many said children were turning up to activities without having breakfast, lunch or dinner. Three quarters of families reported that food poverty was impacting on their children’s health and well-being.

What had driven the families to this point? The vast majority of families reported they were using the food banks as an emergency measure, while they were waiting for their benefits to come through.

The reality is that, far from being a carte blanche to ‘shirk’, benefits are a lifeline to many families – including the six out of the ten impoverished households where someone works. Though small (many low income families survive on £12 a day) the payments are a buffer zone which prevents families on the brink of poverty from falling into absolute crisis.

In the New Year, the Government will vote on a bill to break the historic link between benefits and inflation. If it goes through, the policy will see benefits capped at a 1% increase every year for the next three years – no matter how much further the price of food or fuel, for example, continues to rise.

This coming year alone, an out-of-work couple with two children lose £120 – a loss that will snowball by 2015.

In the immediate term this policy will push families who go without in order to feed their children, even further into crisis. In the long term, it will punish the children of these families by trapping them in grinding poverty that will make them more likely to succumb to disease and illness, to fail at school and in future to be trapped in a cycle of unemployment.

This New Year the Government has a chance to do something about poverty. It should start by rejecting punitive measures that rent holes in the welfare safety net at a time where sustainable employment is evermore scarce. Instead it should focus on basic services, such as debt advice and training for young people, to spread privilege to the 3.6 million children who live below the breadline.

Neera is Assistant Director, Policy and Research at Barnardo’s

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 3 Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbridge Wells - £32,000

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Generalist (standalone) - Tunbrid...

Year 3 Teacher Plymouth

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 3 Primary Teacher...

Junior Software Developer - Newcastle, Tyne & Wear - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer / J...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Girls were by far the most worried about their appearance, the survey found  

English children are among the unhappiest in the world – we are failing them

Natasha Devon
 

Daily catch-up: eurogloom, Ed in Red and Cameron’s Wilsonian U-turn on control orders

John Rentoul
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering