Cost-of-living crisis forcing families to share beds and forgo proper meals

According to Barnardo’s’ new report, nearly one in three parents (30 per cent) are worried about being made homeless, and almost half (49 per cent) are concerned about keeping their home warm for their children.

A Crisis On Our Doorstep’ reveals the ways in which the pressures of dealing with rising costs and mounting debt is affecting the health and wellbeing of children, young people and families. It is based upon a YouGov poll of over 1,000 parents of children aged 18 or under in Great Britain.

More than one in seven (16 per cent) parents who responded said their children have had to share a bed with them, their partner or a sibling during the winter months, because they cannot afford another bed. One in 14 parents (7 per cent) are still having to share beds right now. 

The poll also revealed that parents are worried about their children missing out on experiencing a normal childhood due to them having to make cost-of-living cutbacks.

Other key findings include:

  • One in three (30 per cent) parents said their child’s mental health has worsened throughout winter 2022/23, up from one in four (26 per cent) in October.
  • 23 per cent of respondents have recently struggled to provide sufficient food for their children.
  • 50 per cent of parents have cut back on leisure or social activities to save money.
  • 49 per cent of parents worry that their children are missing out on a ‘normal ’childhood due to ‘cost-of-living cutbacks’.

Supporting families with food and essential items

Barnardo’s said over the last six months it has been providing immediate help and support for families already in receipt of its services, this includes providing food vouchers, warm clothing and essential items such as washing machines or beds. As of 7 February, the charity’s support has reached 8,795 people, including 4,992 children and 2,141 families. The biggest demand was for help to prevent hunger.

The charity has supported families where children were sleeping on cushions on floors, parents were having to limit how many baths their children had, and those resorting to forgoing proper meals and eating their children’s leftovers instead. This is despite these families saying they had received cost-of-living payments, warm home discount and cold winter payments.

‘The Government has a key opportunity with the Spring Statement to support families who are struggling’.

Barnardo’s chief executive Lynn Perry said, ‘Across the UK, Barnardo’s is supporting children who are slipping into poverty as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. Families who once had to choose between heating or eating are now worried about providing warm beds for their children or losing their homes altogether.  

‘Children and young people were hit hard during the pandemic, and many are now missing out on the basics. The Government has a key opportunity with the Spring Statement to step in and support families who are struggling – starting with the introduction of extending free school meals in primary schools, so that every young child has at least one hot and healthy meal.’

Last week, the charity handed in a petition of 32,000 signatories to 10 Downing Street calling for free school meals to be extended to all primary school children.

Barnardo’s is calling on the Government to:

  • Strengthen social security. It says this should include a review of universal credit to ensure it is linked permanently to inflation and that the reduced payment level for under 25s is removed, reintroducing the £20 uplift, reversing the two-child limit and the benefit cap.
  • Implement a total ban on forced prepayment meter installations until new protections are introduced that ensure households cannot be disconnected.
  • For mental health support teams to be rolled out across all schools and colleges in England. This would ensure that accessing support isn’t based on a family’s ability to afford treatment, such as counselling.

A Government spokesperson said, ‘Our Household Support Fund continues to help families with essential costs and we remain committed to helping families at risk of homelessness – over half a million households have been prevented from becoming homeless or supported into settled accommodation since 2018.’

‘Since 2010, the number of children receiving a free meal at school has increased by more than two million thanks to universal infant free school meals and protections for parents moving to Universal Credit.

‘Our further investment in the National School Breakfast Programme also extends it for another year, backed by up to £30m.’


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