As the cost of living crisis rages on, LBC presenter Nick Ferrari has left many angered and shocked after saying people shouldn’t become parents if they can’t afford to buy their children toothbrushes.
His comments were in response to figures released by the charity Beauty Banks and the British Dental Association, which found 83% of secondary school teachers said they or their school have given students toothbrushes or toothpaste.
Responding to this heartbreaking stat, Ferrari said: “If you are a mum – and/or a dad – and you haven’t got money to buy your child a toothbrush, you should never have become a parent in the first place.” Yes, you heard correctly.
The repercussions of oral hygiene poverty are huge and devastating for children.
The new report found one in two teachers said children isolate themselves because of oral hygiene issues, while one in four miss school because of it. One in three have witnessed bullying directly linked to a student’s oral hygiene issues.
Sali Hughes, co-founder of Beauty Banks which donates personal hygiene products to people living in poverty, branded Ferrari’s comments as “shocking”.
She told HuffPost UK: “Suggesting that women who find themselves poor should never have had children, at the very best fails to comprehend the unprecedented scale of financial difficulty for families since Covid, a global energy crisis, recession, and a cost of living crisis that has seen essentials like food and toiletries rise sharply – and unmanageably – in price.
“Circumstances have changed so dramatically for so many families that Beauty Banks has seen a 75% increase in product requests from food banks, hostels and schools, with toothpaste and toothbrushes now being the most asked for toiletries items.”
She concluded: “If Nick Ferrari can’t conceive of such poverty, then he is very fortunate. But this is the demonstrable reality for many modern Britons. I suggest that rather than belittling people living in poverty, and rubbishing frontline teacher testimony, he should listen, try to understand, and affect change.”
Many factors can contribute to people ending up in poverty, including rising living costs, low pay, lack of work, and inadequate social security benefits.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, around one in five people in the UK (20%) were in poverty between 2020-21. That’s 13.4 million people. (And this data was compiled well before the worst of the energy crisis took hold.)
It’s believed around one in four children in the UK are living in poverty and, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, 75% of these children have at least one parent in work.
After LBC shared a clip of Ferrari’s response to the report, hundreds of people – including TV host Carol Vorderman – had plenty to say about it, with the former Countdown star calling his language “humiliating”.
There were also plenty of reminders that not every parent is already living in poverty when they have children – and that circumstances can (and sadly often do) change.
Photographer and activist Misan Harriman, who is an ambassador for Save The Children UK, issued a video statement in response to the comments, which he branded “unacceptable”.
“We have to have a duty of care to the most vulnerable in our society and if a parent cannot afford a toothbrush, they are vulnerable. They need help, not criticism.
“As a nation we need to ask ourselves who we are – and I do not recognise any place where parents that are going through hell are stamped on. We have to be better than this.”