05/09/2012 16:45 BST

Save The Children: 3.5 Million Children In Poverty In UK, Parents Go Hungry To Feed Kids

A mother has spoken out about her struggle to feed and clothe her son, in the wake of a new report by Save The Children into child poverty in the UK.

The charity has launched its first campaign in Britain in its 93-year-history, with 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK.

Maria Gregory, 42, from Newmarket, Suffolk, said she had struggled to cope raising her two-year-old son Taiu as a single mum, and could not return to work because childcare costs would take more than half of her earnings as a care worker.

She told The Huffington Post UK that it was "heartbreaking" having to deny her son activities like swimming and going to the fair, because she could not afford it.

"He says to me, 'please, please mummy, I'll be a good boy'. But I still can't buy him an ice cream or a toy, even taking him on a fairground ride at a free fete costs £3.

"And he thinks I am punishing him for being naughty.

"I want to raise awareness of how many people can't afford to buy their kids clothes. Even without VAT, children's clothes and shoes are so expensive.

"To get him decent new shoes will cost £25 at least. I have to rely on other people for hand-me-downs, because they grow so fast at his age."

Gregory depends on food banks and hand-me-downs to keep her family afloat.

"I have to go without so much myself. We go to the food bank for a lot of the non-perishable food, and we pay a few pence for it, by weight. We also get donations of things like washing powder from a group in Newmarket.

"And I try to take him to free events, but he can't have a go on any of the stalls, or rides, or have an ice cream.

"We have been on free cycle to get him some toys, I never buy food when we are out, we take juice and an apple. But like any child, he sometimes wants a sweet when he has been good. And I have to say no.

"I want to be able to take him to the seaside, or at least take him swimming.

"He loves the Olympics and he asks me everyday to go swimming, but we have only been able to afford to go once or twice this summer. I always have to say no.

"I did want to go back to work as a care supervisor, where I was earning a good wage. But now, if I went back as a caseworker, I would only be paid £7 an hour, and it's £3.54 an hour for childcare.

"I hope I can go back to work when Taiu is older and can get some free nursery time.

"No politician is doing anything to help people on low wages. I have recently had my housing benefit cut.

"I think a lot of people just do not know who to turn to in order to get help, in order to feed their child.

"Prices for food and transport are getting higher and higher but wages are not increasing, and neither are benefits.

"Each political party will try and blame the other one, but this is not about politics. If we don't do something, I do think disease and illness will start spreading among these families."