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In the UK, over a third of children are trapped in poverty, facing hunger, cold, and unsafe living conditions. The escalating cost-of-living crisis is pushing more families to the edge. Urgent government intervention is critical to protect children and provide them with a secure and nurturing childhood.

Statistics on the Cost of Living

  • 3 million children are living in poverty in the UK
  • 90% of adults have experienced an increase in household expenses

Every child deserves a promising start in life. Yet, children living in poverty face additional challenges to realize their potential. They bear the burden of their parents’ worries, financial anxiety, and an uncertain future.

As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, more children are at risk of falling into poverty or sinking deeper into it. Over a quarter of all children in the UK now live in poverty, with millions facing hunger. Poverty can mean children endure cold homes, hunger, or lack basic necessities.

Children in the most vulnerable situations are most vulnerable to the cost-of-living crisis. Families with no room for further cutbacks are not just choosing between food and heating but are unable to afford either. Growing up in poverty can hinder children’s life opportunities, limit their educational prospects, and lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes

Recent findings from Barnardo’s report ‘At what cost?’

The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children and young people’ highlight:

  • Over half of parents have reduced spending on food for their families in the past year
  • One in five parents struggle to provide enough food due to the cost-of-living crisis, impacting their child’s mental health
  • Desperate measures include selling possessions, accumulating debt, or leaving pets at shelters due to rising costs.

Recent analysis by mental health charity Mind of NHS data reveals a surge in young people seeking mental health support. During Children’s Mental Health Week, referrals to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) reached a record high of 507,738 by December 2023.

Fifteen percent of young people with mental health issues live in households unable to afford sufficient food or have resorted to food banks, compared to only 3.5% without mental health issues.

Financial constraints may lead to isolation and loneliness, affecting young people’s mental health. Over a quarter of those aged 8 to 16 with mental health issues have parents who can’t afford extracurricular activities, compared to 10.3% without.

How Money Issues Impact Mental Health:

Money worries or poverty can affect a young person’s mental well-being through:

  • Anxiety or panic attacks triggered by bills, debts, or benefits assessments.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Social isolation or loneliness due to financial constraints.
  • Depression stemming from poor living conditions or the inability to afford necessities like medications or counseling.
  • Increased stress levels.
  • Feelings of fear, shame, guilt, being overwhelmed, or having low self-esteem.

A young person with mental health issues may:

  • Lack motivation to manage finances, leading to debt accumulation.
  • Make impulsive financial decisions.
  • Experience reduced income due to difficulties in studying or working.
  • Incur additional expenses for therapy, medication, or care.

 Discussing Money and the Cost-of-Living Crisis with Your Child:

  • Keep communication channels open for questions and discussions.
  • Acknowledge your child’s feelings and concerns.
  • Encourage avoiding comparisons with peers’ lifestyles.
  • Discuss values and prioritizing important aspects in life.
  • Address specific worries and fears to alleviate anxiety.
  • Focus on things within their control rather than blaming themselves for external pressures

How to Comfort Your Child Amid Concerns About the Rising Cost of Living:

When children feel anxious, they seek solace from trusted adults. While it’s crucial to be honest about the situation and acknowledge their feelings of worry or sadness as normal, it’s equally important to provide reassurance. Dealing with financial stress can be overwhelming, but demonstrating to your child that you are actively seeking solutions and willing to make changes can help alleviate their anxiety. Financial concerns can strain relationships as well. It’s best to shield your child from these tensions.

The lives of our children are so very precious. Despite these challenging times, aim to infuse joy and foster a warm, loving environment at home.

With Love, Eliza X