Tonight, my children are both tucked up warmly in their beds, with their favourite teddies close to hand and a collection of toys, books and clothes to fill their rooms. They sleep soundly, safely dreaming and secure in teh knowledge that I will be there for them when they wake. Tonight, my children have food in their tummies and smiles on their lips. This house groans with jigsaws, crayons, trumpets and stuffed sea-lions. Each room leaves clues as to the children in our lives- pencil crayons in the cutlery drawer; plastic bricks and a painting easel in the dining room; toy boats and mini toothbrushes in the bathroom. There are chalk drawings stuck to the cupboards in the kitchen and my hand-bag is no longer a hand-bag. Insead, its filled with the minutae of my life as a parent- a sachet of Calpol, a mini note-book, a carton of raisins and a packet of babywipes. My children are so lucky.
Tonight, so many more children will not have all of these things. Tonight, children who aren’t so lucky will not have their own bed to sleep in and toys to play with in the morning. Tomorrow, some children will awake to the same grey life they hoped might’ve changed when they went to sleep.
According to Save The Children, around 1.6 million children are living in extreme poverty in the UK, with the highest number living just down the road from me. An article on the BBC news website states that,
“Children up and down the country are going to sleep at night in homes with no heating, without eating a proper meal and without proper school uniforms to put on in the morning.”
and goes on to report that,
“more children would be tipped into poverty by public sector job losses and changes to benefits.”
Tonight, my children will sleep on full tummies and clean beds and I hope that it will always stay that way. But with my husband and I both employed by local governement and living in a region with a high rate of child poverty, can we afford to be so sure? We complain about being broke at the end of the month but we have never had to copper up to pay for the electricity bill, or had to decide between eating dinner or paying the rent. We are so lucky. So many are not.
I’ve already blogged about the library closures and the fact that studies have found a direct link between a child being read to and developing well educationally. The same studies reported low income families being unable to dedicate funds towards buying and reading books. If more cuts and more job losses means that more children will be plunged into poverty, how will the new benefits changes help familes who are close to the breadline?
The only way out of poverty is to work and bring home an income, but with work comes childcare and with childcare comes pain in the wallet. I don’t work full time as I feel that I am needed at home with my son. If I were to work full time, our childcare costs would rocket to just over £800 a month. I’m not on a low income but a teacher’s wage isn’t great. How would those who earn less than me cope with childcare costs like that? How will those who don’t work and who have their benefits cut afford to keep their children clothed and fed appropriately? If so many children are living in poverty now, how will that improve with the way that things are going?
Like I said, my children are so lucky. They don’t need to worry about things like this; we do.
Read Save The Children’s blog post on this, written by Gareth Jenkins.