Even in the toughest of times, we can do better by Britain’s kids
A Family Rescue Package is the right place to start and a fitting way to thank the little heroes who are staying inside to keep us all safe, says Kirsty McNeill, Executive Director of Policy at Save the Children | Credit: Save the Children
We need quick fixes to stop children missing out on meals and to give families the reassurance they need that they can survive this big hit to the family budget.
Over the last few weeks we’ve really seen our country at its best. From neighbours looking after old folk to NHS staff risking their health for ours to the government’s emergency measures for businesses and the self-employed, we’ve seen what we can do when we pull together.
The PM and Chancellor have already done a lot for workers, but we would love to see some extra help for our youngest citizens too. Despite the steps that have been taken, many children will still be struggling.
For too many kids their new ‘classroom’ is the end of the bed, because there isn’t a table for schoolwork or crafts. Many of us might have gone Joe Wicks crazy, but what if your child doesn’t have a laptop to follow along like their friends? If you were already really hard up – like the parents of one in three of the nation’s children – lockdown must feel like the walls are closing in.
Even in the toughest of times, we can do better by Britain’s kids.
Save the Children has long campaigned to fix Universal Credit, because we know from working with families that the system needs to work better if we are to do right by children. Even before the current crisis, many problems with Universal Credit were becoming obvious. Now that the number of people applying for support through the system has sky-rocketed to over 1.4 million, the strain on family life will be widespread.
That’s why we’re calling for a Family Rescue Package from government. We need quick fixes to stop children missing out on meals and to give families the reassurance they need that they can survive this big hit to the family budget.
Boosting the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by just £15-a-week would help stop many children going without food, feeling the cold without heating at home or being unable to get online to keep in touch with grandparents or teachers. And crucially this could be done quickly. There aren’t many things that can happen with the flick of a switch, but this could be achieved tomorrow.
The government has already paused the recovery of benefit debts for three months, which will help put more money in the pockets of families. To help the million new claimants trying to get Universal Credit, the government should extend this pause on repayments to those who need support right now. Or they could provide people grants instead. Either way, it would stop people having to take on debt from the day they start claiming Universal Credit.
As part of our own Family Rescue Package, Save the Children have launched an emergency grant scheme for families, to provide household items such as highchairs, beds and dining tables, and books and toys. It will be a help, but it won’t be enough as we know many thousands of children won’t have access to the internet, or to a computer or tablet to do their schoolwork. That’s why the government must also help families who are not already online to get urgent access to the internet and devices – and support them to manage their internet bills for at least as long as schools are closed.
The next few weeks won’t be easy for anyone. But for those kids whose lives were already the hardest this crisis could push them even further behind their classmates. With your help Save the Children and other charities will do what we can but government needs to put kids next on the list for help. A Family Rescue Package is the right place to start and a fitting way to thank the little heroes who are staying inside to keep us all safe.