Call for child-benefit rise to save millions already struggling before lockdown
MOST children in Britain are “a pay cheque away” from going without essentials like food, a charity has found.
At least 8.6 million children’s families had savings of less than the average monthly income of £1,569 even before the Covid-19 crisis hit, research by Action for Children has revealed.
As many as 63 per cent of children had little or no funding to shield them against the economic disruption caused by the pandemic, the charity said yesterday.
With millions of jobs under threat and problems and delays with state support such as universal credit and school-meal vouchers, families are struggling to pay for essentials, it said.
The report also reveals a stark north-south divide, with 71 per cent of parents in north-east England having little or no savings compared to 56 per cent in the south-east.
Action for Children has launched an emergency appeal to help those facing months of hardship, struggling to pay for food, nappies, utility bills and more.
It cited the case of Michelle, a self-employed hairdresser and mother of two from Dunfermline.
She has been unable to work since coronavirus hit and is not entitled to self-employment support as she has only been a hairdresser since November.
“My partner was able to take on extra shifts but that meant he was working himself into the ground and I was so worried about his mental health with him working and worrying so much.
“I was being really careful with food, making sure the kids were getting fed first and I was just eating smaller portions. I was tending to not want to eat in the end and my appetite was just fading.”
Michelle has had to put her one-year-old back on breastfeeding as the family was unable to afford powdered milk and have not always been able to get fresh milk from the shops.
“My body is so tired, it was preparing to stop and now I’m having to push it to let me keep feeding her,” she said.
Action for Children deputy chief executive Carol Iddon said: “Millions of vulnerable families with children were struggling to put food on the table even before they were hit by the economic impact of this once-in-a-generation health crisis. A month into lockdown, they are hanging by a thread.”
Ms Iddon urged the public to donate to the charity to support struggling families.
“But the government must act too and use the most effective way we have of getting help to children — by increasing child benefit by £10 a week,” she said.
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