UK

Children worried peers’ families cannot afford presents this Christmas – survey

A survey has suggested children are worried about their peers’ ability to celebrate Christmas because of financial worries (Alamy/UK)
A survey has suggested children are worried about their peers’ ability to celebrate Christmas because of financial worries (Alamy/UK) A survey has suggested children are worried about their peers’ ability to celebrate Christmas because of financial worries (Alamy/UK)

Around a third of young people are worried their friends or classmates will not get presents or be able to celebrate Christmas because of their family’s money worries, according to a survey by a children’s charity.

Just over a fifth (22%) told of concerns their friends or classmates will not be able to visit family for the holidays thanks to travel costs, while around three in 10 expressed fears their peers will not enjoy a warm home this winter because of heating bills, the polling suggested.

Action for Children said the results indicate many families are still struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and appealed for people to support its Secret Santa campaign which allows people to buy a gift or make a donation to help vulnerable children.

The charity commissioned polling, carried out by Censuswide in November, of 2,004 UK children aged between eight and 18.

The results showed that 33% of respondents were worried about a friend or classmate not getting presents, and 32% worried about them being able to celebrate Christmas at all amid financial constraints.

The charity also gathered evidence from 200 of its frontline workers, and found that three-quarters said the current pressures on families and young people they support are worse than last year.

A third (32%) of the frontline workers said energy bills were the biggest financial concerns among those they are supporting, while 30% said it was food costs.

Increasing debt is a concern for people, according to 15% of the workers surveyed, up from 8% of those surveyed last year.

Paul Carberry, chief executive at Action for Children, said: “The magic of Christmas begins in childhood. But for children on the breadline up and down the UK it’s anything but magical.

“How do you give a child a Christmas to remember when you’re going without food so they can eat? How can they experience the joy of Christmas if it’s just another day to go to bed hungry and to wake up cold?”

He said missing out on essentials such as heating and food “can scar a child’s whole life”, as he called on the Government to “do more for them during this brutal and ongoing cost-of-living crisis, as well as deliver ambitious policies to end child poverty for good”.

“Until every family has enough money to keep their child warm and well fed, we will continue to help them,” he said.

“That’s why we’re asking the public to get behind our Secret Santa campaign to help us support our most vulnerable children, not just at Christmas but every day.”

The charity survey comes after international research suggested the UK has a relatively high rate of teenagers skipping meals because of poverty compared with other countries.

More than one in 10 (11%) pupils in the UK said they did not eat at least once a week because there was not enough money to buy food, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The average across the 25 OECD countries with available data was 8%, according to the survey of 15-year-olds around the world.

Meanwhile, Unicef said its research had shown that child poverty levels in the UK have risen by a fifth in recent years, ranking worst among some of the world’s richest countries.

When it came to how child income poverty rates had changed in roughly the past decade, the UK placed 39 out of 39 relatively well-off countries.

Unicef’s report looked at high-income and upper middle-income countries in the European Union (EU) and the OECD, to assess the current state of child poverty and progress countries have made towards eliminating it in the period between 2012-14 and 2019-21.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “There are 1.7 million fewer people in absolute poverty than in 2010, including 400,000 fewer children, but we know some families are struggling, which is why we are providing support worth around £3,700 per household on average, including raising benefits by over 10% this year and helping people with essentials through the Household Support Fund.

“We’re also investing £3.5 billion to help thousands into jobs and removing barriers to work for parents with the biggest ever expansion of free childcare – saving eligible families up to £6,500 a year.”