On the busiest Christmas shopping day of the year staff at Action for Children are working to support the poorest families across the UK stay warm and fed. This is a sad reflection of the worsening effects of the tough economic times we are in; in previous years we handed out presents during the festive season.
We have seen a painful increase in need for donations of basics such as food and clothing. Action for Children runs more than 220 children's centres throughout the UK and nearly two thirds of those we surveyed are now referring families to food banks, potentially affecting thousands of vulnerable children. This Dickensian-like reality is especially horrible when you consider that we live in the eighth wealthiest country in the world.
Whilst food banks and clothing donations are invaluable, they are a sticking plaster rsolution to deeper problems.
Throughout our services, 64 per cent of children are facing more severe problems at home, such as cost of living rising and parental unemployment, in comparison to last year. Not only are children growing up in homes where basic needs are scarce, but the emotional impact of these stresses on children's mental health and emotional wellbeing cannot be underestimated.
Action for Children works with these families to address the deeper problems by unpicking the issues that impact children most, helping parents to improve their situations, such as managing money, building their confidence and helping them stay on top of food budgets.
But this vital work is threatened, as the Government cuts budgets for early support that can turn lives around before they reach a crisis point.
This is not the society we should be living in. Vulnerable and disadvantaged children deserve a fighting chance, the same as every other child in the UK.