In 2020/21, 3.9 million children were living in poverty in the UK, which is 8 children in a class of 30. As the cost of living crisis intensifies and the winter months set in, this figure is increasing, with many more children facing serious hardships at home.
The Christmas holidays can be a difficult time of the year for many of the families we support. Now more than ever parents are struggling to afford the basic essentials they need to keep their children warm and fed over the holidays.
While for some children it may be that they simply won’t get any presents this year, others may be dreading spending the school holidays in a freezing cold house without a hot meal, and some may even be facing the threat of eviction.
We asked School-Home Support practitioners to share their experiences of the challenges facing families at this time.
65% of the practitioners we surveyed said that all or most of the families they are supporting are struggling to buy food.
70% said that all or most of the families they are supporting are struggling to keep up with their bills.
70% also said that all or most of the families they are supporting are worried about being able to buy Christmas presents.
70% said that all or most of the families they are supporting are worried about not being able to afford children’s winter clothes and shoes.
We also asked our front line practitioners who work daily to support families: what is it that the families they work with are most worried about?
“Parents are worrying about affording the presents their children are expecting, as well as being able to put food on the table for Christmas day. They are doing all they can to try to have a day of celebration without the worry of affording the costs of food and heating.”
“Most people I have spoken to are limiting presents, some parents have said they have spoken to the children and said they will only be getting a little present and said they will just try and get by. Some families are already in a lot of debt.”
“Parents are worried about keeping their children safe, occupied and fed, as well as family conflicts and difficulties with family members who abuse alcohol or other substances.’
“My families are worried that because the children are off school for two weeks they are going to struggle to keep the house warm all day every day.”
School-Home Support CEO Jaine Stannard reflects on the challenges that this time of year can bring for families.
“Christmas can be a difficult time of year. For disadvantaged families, the challenges they are facing at home can be intensified over the Christmas holidays. This year in particular, as families continue to recover from the pandemic and face a worsening cost of living crisis, these challenges are affecting many more children. Families need support now more than ever.”
How do we support families?
We know that the cost of living crisis presents a huge challenge for school attendance and good engagement in the classroom, with financial pressures at home intensifying already complex situations for families. Our practitioners act as the bridge between home and school – the support they provide to families extends beyond the classroom and tackles the underlying causes of poor school attendance. This means that our practitioners can support families to resolve issues with housing and living conditions, can signpost to local authorities or legal services, and can support with budgeting and accessing benefits and grants to help maximise income. While financial pressures can be just one of many challenges a family is facing, relieving some of these pressures can allow for essential time and space to tackle other key issues.