It might be a surprise for many that United Kingdom is battling serious problems with children living in poverty. Currently 4.5 million children are living in poverty, which means that more than one in four children are affected by it. Living in poverty is harmful for children and it damages life chances and childhoods. The situation is expected to get worse in the future and more and more children will live below the breadline. How can this be possible and what could be done to help?
I am especially interested in this topic because England used to be my home for many years and I still visit there very often. It is heart breaking to learn about the reality of so many children in United Kingdom.
It would be easy to assume that parents of families that live in poverty are unemployed, and therefore suffering from lack of money. In reality in many cases it is the opposite. Parents might work full hours and still have as much as 200 pounds a month left, after paying bills. The video below explains the nature of the situation in UK.
It sounds shocking that parents who work full-time do not have enough money for food. Working full-time is not enough if you are earning minimum wage. The current minimum wage in United Kingdom is depending on age, and it is from £4.35 to £8.21 per hour. I myself have been working on minimum wage in UK in the past, and even I struggled without having to provide for any children or family.
It is also important to keep on mind that in UK, it is not that common to receive any additional pay, for example double pay on Sundays or extra pay for night shifts. I was never paid more on weekends or nights and I also worked in places where I did not get sick pay. Comparing working in UK and working in Finland has made me realize how well things are in Finland and how much there is to improve in UK.
What could help to rise the minimum wage in UK then? There is a campaign in UK called Living Wage, where they have calculated the “real” minimum wages that are fair on workers. Currently over 500 businesses in UK voluntarily pay living wage for their workers. The government has been inspired by this campaign and started to rise the official minimum wage. It is still extremely low, but we are going to the right direction.
Another factor that has played a big part in driving families into poverty are the benefit cuts. In 2017 a two-child limit came into effect, restricting financial support to first two children. This means that families with more than two children will receive less benefits. It increases the risk of these families to fall into poverty especially because families with three or more children were already at greater risk of it happening.
Cuts in benefits are implemented even if children living in poverty has been a well-known issue for a long time in United Kingdom.
How can we change the situation then? Decisions about benefits are political so what we can do is to remember the importance of voting and educating people around us. We must fight injustice with knowledge!
There are also plenty of charities working to help the situation. Campaign called End Child Poverty has gathered charities together that work for freeing UK from child poverty. Supporting these charities is one way to support children living in poverty.
Every child deserves a worthy childhood!
Thank you for reading.