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Britain's shame: More than 120,000 children ‘destitute’

MORE than 120,000 children across Britain are living in the most extreme form of poverty, according to charity survey which reveals the situation is worsening.

The devastating rise in levels of destitution was branded “stark and worrying” by Buttle UK, which works with young people in crisis.

Its poll of 1,240 front-line professionals found that six in 10 of the children they work with are experiencing extreme poverty — up from 45 per cent the previous year and 36 per cent in 2021.

The London-based charity, which published its annual State of Child Poverty report yesterday, said: “The families our front-line workers are supporting includes approximately 122,000 children living in destitution.

“The year-on-year change between the last three survey cohorts dramatically illustrates the progressively worsening circumstances for children in poverty.”

The organisation described the term “destitution” as referring to the absolute lowest standard of living any adult, child or young person can experience, leading to a “lived reality which is degrading and unsustainable.”

Specifically, its study said someone is considered destitute if they have gone a month without at least two of the following — shelter, food, lighting, heating, clothing or basic toiletries.

Buttle’s chief executive Joseph Howes stressed the survey “demonstrates the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.”

He warned that of the families his team are trying to help, more than half are unable to afford enough food and nutrition, gas and electricity bills, basic furniture and IT equipment for education and employment, such as mobiles and laptops.

Almost half — 49 per cent — warned soaring rental costs were unaffordable.

The research comes as more front-line workers are reporting children going to school hungry and being unable to concentrate or participate in classes, with some refusing to attend as a result.

Last month, under-pressure Education Secretary Gillian Keegan admitted pupil absences were at “crisis” levels, with official figures revealing 125,000 young people were “severely absent” last year.

Mr Howes added: “More and more children are having to go without food, and the situations these challenges are creating are preventing them from having any chance to reach their potential at school.

“The increase in children and young people living in destitution is stark and worrying.

“A child poverty strategy is needed in the longer term, but changes can be made now to pull hundreds of thousands of children out from the destructive grip of poverty.

“We urge the government to act now and support struggling families by lifting the two-child universal credit limit and introducing an ‘essentials guarantee,’ ensuring benefits always cover the basic essentials.”

While there is currently a minister for children, families and well-being, the charity also called for a Cabinet-level minister “who can provide cross-government co-ordination and leadership for children, including leading on a new child poverty strategy.”

A government spokesperson said: “There are 400,000 fewer children in poverty since 2010 — but we know cost-of-living pressures are squeezing families’ budgets.

“This is why we’re providing record financial support worth an average £3,300 per household and bearing down on inflation to help everyone’s money go further.

“The two-child policy asks families on benefits to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work, and there are careful exemptions.”

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