Hungry children are suffering, here in the UK

I’ve been doing a bit of work in my constituency about the effects of Universal Credit on local people, the rising use of Food Banks, and the inadequate funding given to rural schools in North Devon.

With that perspective, I was dismayed but not surprised to read a recent article highlighting the social exclusion experienced by children living in poverty.

This is personal for me – I grew up in a military household, having enough to live on but not a lot, and when my father left the forces, we were poor for a couple of years until he retrained and got another job. For those years, I felt excluded. I wore hand-me-downs and home-made clothes. I didn’t fit in as we had moved into a rural community from outside the country. My accent was funny, my safety net of having friends from military families on base was gone, and I was bullied. Things settled down, but I will never forget that first year of leaving the ‘family’ of military life and entering civilian life as an 11-year-old child. But I was never hungry.

The new study by University College London, Living Hand to Mouth, published yesterday, looks at the impact hunger has on children’s lives. As readers will know, free school meals have been cut back by the Conservative Government. It is Lib Dem policy, however, to reinstate free school meals for all those on Universal Credit and, further, that all primary school children regardless of their income level should have a free school meal. Nutrition is ever so important for learning. A healthy child is one who can flourish and absorb knowledge. A hungry one can not.

Some findings from the UCL study:

  • Children with parents who work in low-paid jobs are going hungry
  • Just over half of the parents in the study ate too little food, went hungry, skipped meals and/ or used food banks
  • Some schools identify children on free school meals by restricting the food they can choose, causing embarrassment to those children.
  • Many parents said they would like to be able to afford more fresh fruit and veg.

The Child Poverty Action Group has a good visual on the impacts of poverty on children here. Children feel unhappy, anxious, worthless and embarrassed. They are worried about their parents, they have fewer opportunities, can be socially insecure, they are bullied and many can’t go on school trips. Through no fault of their own, their educational attainments are lower than childen who do not live in poverty.

What kind of society are we trying to build? Having any children living in poverty in a first-world country like the UK is shameful.

Note: funding for the UCL study was provided by the European Research Council….

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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6 Comments

  • nigel hunter 3rd Apr '19 - 1:25pm

    The funding for the UCL came from European sources. Their is no certainty that after Brexit funding will be available for independent research projects that do not toe the Tory Govnt line

  • If the basic benefit level was set at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation poverty level then no child should go hungry. I hope I can count on your support Kirsten if the ‘Fairer Share for All’ policy working group doesn’t recommend this when they bring the policy paper back in September.

  • Good to know you’ve noticed, Kirsten, although my local food Bank was started way back in 2013 when the Coalition austerity cuts began to bite. We were also first in line when UC was rolled out well over two years ago. Last year we had just over 5,000 clients – with UC being the single most denominator. I rather think a bit of Lib Dems scrutiny was missing between 2012-15 when they were in Government and voted to introduce UC.

    Sorry, Nigel,there are other sources of research available outside the EU. Try the Trussell Trust website for starters,the Rowntree Trust and the UN rapporteurs report. Sheffield University and Queen Margaret are also researching the kutcomes. It’s not the research….. it’s the political will to do something about it.

  • Predictive text. Read outcomes for kutcomes …. Although it seems suitable in a way.

  • nigel hunter 3rd Apr '19 - 10:44pm

    Yes, it is the political will to do something about it. The EU money goes to where it is needed.Who is to say that when ‘we take back control’ the existing Govnt can decide where to put the money to suit there needs not necessarily where it is really needed.

  • Helen Dudden 4th Apr '19 - 12:03pm

    Many years ago, I walked out of a meeting, Don Foster, was doing on gathering people to promote Food Banks.
    My concerns were, how healthy could this be? No fresh produce, and female products were added a while ago. How about those needing special diets?
    It seems my instincts were correct, are you as a Party, for against Food Banks? Are they better than going hungry?

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