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Charity: vulnerable families will suff er most from outbreak

VULNERABLE families across the country fear that they will not be able to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, a children’s charity warns.

Action for Children interviewed a number of its front-line staff to find out how families below the breadline are coping with the fallout from the virus. 

The study found that 25 out of 29 service managers — representing 60 of the charity’s front-line services including children’s centres — said that they had spoken to families who feared that they would not have enough money to survive during the outbreak. 

It found that families were most worried about not being able to afford food, followed by electricity and gas, then nappies.

Britain is already facing astronomical levels of child poverty, with 4.5 million kids living below the breadline, according to the Social Metrics Commission.

Action for Children warned that this will worsen dramatically if more isn’t done to support people through the pandemic. 

It highlighted the case of Helen, 50, from Devon, who works as a full-time carer for her autistic seven-year-old son. 

Her partner, a taxi driver, is the sole earner in the house. Since the outbreak, he’s only had a few jobs per day, hitting the family’s already-small income hard. 

“I’m struggling mentally and trying not to panic, to hold the family together, but I’m also thinking ‘what next?’ Or wondering where I can find bread and milk,” she said.

“It’s hurting the children too — lots of parents are saying kids who are normally quite together have been upset and in tears.”

Action for Children deputy chief executive Carol Iddon said that the charity’s front-line staff have been “overwhelmed” by the desperation of families visiting its centres.

The situation is so bad that some charity workers are “even donating food from their own cupboards to help keep families from going under,” she said. 

Almost two-thirds of interviewees reported that they didn’t think the government was doing enough to support vulnerable families. 

Ms Iddon appealed for urgent donations to the charity, saying: “Our support workers will keep battling to help families come out the other side of this — but they need your help.”

To support Action for Children’s emergency coronavirus appeal, please visit actionforchildren.org.uk, call 0300 123-2112 or text CHILDREN to 70175 to donate £5.

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