The Childhood Trust crunched the numbers and found that disadvantaged children in London will have £19.55 spent on them this Christmas. Meanwhile, the UK’s average family pet budget for Christmas presents is £22. The data reveals how difficult Christmas is for nearly half of the capital’s 700,000 children living in poverty, with some even saying they hate Christmas.
Laurence Guinness, CEO of the Childhood Trust, pointed out that disadvantage has wide meaning and far-reaching consequences. Children can experience disadvantage in a whole range of different ways: coming home to an empty cupboard; domestic violence or neglect; homelessness or being too cold due to fuel poverty. The trust sees disadvantage as anything that causes stress and anxiety to a child or degrades their capacity to learn or function well.
Laurence pointed to a number of factors behind these figures. Housing shortage is a UK-wide problem but is pronounced in the capital. Ten per cent of households own 50 per cent of the wealth in London. Many people living in poverty are renting and the cost of buying drives up their rent. 80 per cent of those in poverty and rented accommodation have children.
This vast inequality mixed with a failure to get paid the £10.20 minimum wage leaves families struggling and children suffering. Laurence suggested that although the new budget’s increase in minimum wage is something, it’s not enough to lift those out of poverty.
Maggie Mitchell, head of Family Intervention at School, spoke to Premier Youth and Children’s Work about times when they have had to buy beds for children who are sharing with siblings or sleeping on the floor. She said that the long term effects of this on their sleep-patterns and subsequently their ability to learn at school is heart-breaking.
This is why the Childhood Trust is running a Christmas challenge, where all donations to the charities working to alleviate childhood poverty listed on their website will be doubled while match funds last until 5th December.