London's small charities are picking up the piecesDate Posted: 18 June 2018
This small charities week 4in10's Research and Learning Officer, Sian Elliott, champions London's small charities making a big difference to families struggling in the wake of welfare reform, diminished public services and a failing employment and housing market.
What is child poverty?
“We don’t need to eat as long as there is food for the kids.”
As living and housing costs soar, wages stagnate and state support diminishes, families in London are increasingly finding it hard to achieve a basic standard of living. Children in London are more likely in poverty than their peers anywhere else in the country. Four in every ten children are growing up in poverty across the capital and in some areas that figure has risen to one in every two. Work should give everyone a decent standard of living but two-thirds of children in poverty are in working households and many parents are struggling in low paid, insecure work that does not provide a stable income to live on.
Income matters. How can families manage if there is not enough money coming in to cover the essentials? Many parents face impossible decisions each month whether to pay their rent, heat their home or put food on the table.
Income matters for childhood too - so that children can have the same as experiences as their friends such as birthday parties, access to books and resources, going on educational trips or having a hobby, as well as to live without the sense of stigma or shame that poverty can bring.
Income also matters for child development. It enables a family to provide more of the things a child needs to develop healthily such as fresh fruit and vegetables, warm clothes and a roof over their heads. It also changes the environment the family lives in. The stress and anxiety caused by financial worries has a detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of parents and their children.
“I’m very anxious about the future of my son. He needed £7 to go on a trip. I didn’t have it but if school is going on a trip I want him to go. So I took seven buses instead of the train to work… just to save up £7.”
Child poverty is defined by income; where it is significantly below that of the average so that a child is excluded from activities and opportunities that are considered everyday or customary in their society. In the UK context this is less than 60% of median income. There is an intentional insistence that child poverty is not only specifically about low incomes but also relative; a recognition of inequality as well as recognition of deep and lasting disadvantage.
How is London responding?
“They moved me into a bedsit but it wasn’t safe, people tried to break into my room, and the electricity wasn’t working”
4in10 was established to support the community-based organisations working tirelessly across London to tackle child poverty and its impact. As our society invests less and less in the mechanisms that help prevent families from being pulled into the current of poverty, it is our members with their wealth of experience, compassion and expertise that families are turning to to keep their heads above water.
Foodbank usage has soared across the capital; our members Pecan Southwark Foodbank have seen a 30% increase in the first quarter of this year compared to this time last year and are preparing themselves for a surge in demand over the summer holidays.
Homelessness is reaching crisis point; 7 out of 10 homeless households in England are in London and 80% of those contain children. Many homeless families are housed in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels that are unsuitable and potentially unsafe for families. Our members the Magpie Project and Hackney Playbus provide play opportunities for children living in temporary accomodation and act as a one-stop-shop community hub providing advice on housing, welfare entitlements and employment.
How can we end child poverty?
London’s community organisations cannot provide the solution to poverty alone. At 4in10, we believe the newly elected administrations provide an opportunity for London councils to take action to tackle child poverty and our recent polling suggests that the majority of Londoners agree.
Recognising the challenges local councils face, as part of the London Child Poverty Alliance we are campaigning for local authorities to implement 12 practical actions to help families overcome the challenges they face.
We want councils to lead the way by paying all staff the London Living Wage, offering business rate relief to employers that follow suit, so that working parents can earn an income they can live on. At 4in10, we would also like to see councils protect the relatively small but vital grants made to London’s community organisations that are making such a difference to the lives of children in poverty.
Through our research, campaigning and free good practice events we do everything to amplify the voices of our members and ensure they can continue supporting children in poverty. Launching this July, we'll be hosting a weekly members spotlight to highlight our members vital work. To join 4in10 and be featured, please contact Sian.
This blog post originally appeared as an article for London Community Foundation, read more here.