Published 10 May 2021
At the end of April 2020, just weeks into the UK’s national lockdown, the Children’s Commissioner for England estimated that 3 million children were living in households that had lost between 20% and 47% of their annual income as a result of the pandemic, whether from job losses, furlough or reduced working hours. Many of these households had been struggling to start with. Across the country, the highest rates of child poverty are found in its capital. Three out of five children and young people in London live in circumstances where they may not be able to have a nutritious diet, take part in leisure and recreational activities, and live in homes with basic amenities.
For children living in poverty, school closures and stay-at-home measures have an especially cruel impact, but the harshest effects can be hard to see and measure directly. The Childhood Trust’s June 2020 report, “Children in Lockdown” reviewed research from bodies including charities, academic institutions, government and industry, in an effort to understand how Covid-19 and, specifically, the lockdown measures imposed to contain it, could affect the most disadvantaged children. The Childhood Trust is London’s child poverty charity, and their 18-page report makes grim reading.
Mental health charities report that children’s worries for the pandemic’s impact on their family, their schools and the future are causing escalating anxiety and depression, while overburdened support services struggle to give remote support to children who have no privacy. A large-scale study says that the negative psychological outcomes for children may translate into mental health problems years later. Physical health is suffering too, for youngsters whose homes have no space to play.
For children in households affected by emotional and physical abuse, prolonged confinement in cramped accommodation with family members who are themselves suffering mental and financial stress is potentially explosive. Home alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic, exacerbating the risk of violence. Spending more time online also makes children vulnerable from abusers outside the home. Children who experience harm during lockdown can no longer take refuge at school or with friends, and the signs go unseen by teachers and health professionals who would normally sound the alarm.
Educational attainment is already weighted against poorer children, and there are signs that school closures are widening the inequality gap, with working-class pupils half as likely as middle-class pupils to be able to access online lessons. As well as education, schools provide meals, and for many disadvantaged children and young adults, their free meal could be the only hot meal that day. The UK’s largest food bank network reported a 107% increase in emergency food parcels given to children in April 2020.
While children are less likely than adults to be found sleeping rough, thousands are in temporary accommodation, where overcrowding can make personal hygiene, privacy, and self-isolation impossible.
To help alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable children, the Childhood Trust provides financial support, training and expertise to enable 200+ child poverty charities throughout London to deliver services including after-school and holiday support, meals, social work referrals, and counselling.
In response to the coronavirus crisis, the Childhood Trust has replaced their regular summer fundraising campaign with “Champions for Children”. The campaign launched last June raised £3.66m and has funded the delivery 94 projects supporting more than 150,000 children and young people.
In this moving 9-minute video made to accompany the Childhood Trust report, we hear primary school children from Rotherhithe and Brixton, two of the areas of London affected by child poverty, talk about their experiences of lockdown and their fears. They speak of loneliness, of seeing television reports of “lots of people dying”, fears about whether they or their parents are going to die, and the uncertainty surrounding their schools – when will they open, and how do we know they won’t just close again anyway?
This June The Childhood Trust will be releasing a new report ‘Post-Lockdown Children in Crisis’ that will present startling evidence of the mental health burden experienced by disadvantaged children in London. The report will support the launch of the 2nd Champions for Children campaign on 7th June that aims to raise £4m. The lockdown may be over, but for so many children the devastating impact remains and without support we risk creating a generation of children who will be left behind.
For more about The Childhood Trust visit their website at https://www.childhoodtrust.org.uk/
Children in Lockdown: the consequences of the coronavirus crisis for children living in poverty. The Childhood Trust, June 2020. https://view.publitas.com/the-childhood-trust/children-in-lockdown-the-childhood-trust-report-june-2020/page/4-5