Cost of living: What’s life like for UK children?

Posted: 7th December 2022

A Newsround survey

Every day in the UK, familes are facing tough choices about how they spend their money.

The cost of things we need for our everyday lives – like food, clothes and energy – has been going up and up … and up.

It’s affecting families, parents and schools – which means it’s affecting children.

Young people have told us they are worried about the impact of it on their lives at home and at school.

They say they are missing out on things they normally enjoy.

You’ve probably heard people talking about it – the cost of living crisis.

The cost of living crisis is due to a lot of different factors and, although governments say they are trying to take action to make things easier, many families are making difficult decisions about their budgets.

At Newsround, we wanted to know if you are worried about what’s happening, and how it’s affecting you and your family.

We heard some of your stories directly, and with the help of the survey company Survation, we asked 2,081 seven to 15-year-olds from all over the UK about their experiences.

Here’s what we learned.

Family life

More than four in five (86%) of the young people who were asked said they had heard of the cost of living crisis and, of those who had, nearly three quarters (72%) told us they were worried about it.

That’s as many as those who said they were worried about the war in Ukraine, Covid or climate change.

When you are worried about something it’s important to talk about it with an adult you trust, and four in five (80%) of the children we heard from said that the cost of living crisis was something that they talked about with their family.

And of course, the tough times the UK is facing will also mean tough times for many families.

The obvious impact of things being more expensive is that families can’t afford them as easily as they have in the past.

Not having enough money can lead to families cutting down on things they need – like food, clothes or energy to heat their homes or cook their food.

Concern about not having enough money is another issue we can see reflected in our survey.

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the children we heard from said that they were worried about their family having less money for things they need – with one in every five (22%) saying they are very worried.

Worries about not having enough money to spend on things you need can make families more careful about what they do spend their money on.

And that’s something that can affect children directly in their everyday lives – at home and at school.

Schools are also facing increased costs and leaders have warned that they might have to cut music lessons, cancel trips or even cut staff as their bills are so high.

Half of the children surveyed (50%) said that their school has been speaking to them about the cost of living crisis, and a similar amount said they are worried that their school could have less money for the things it needs.

Back at home, nearly one in three (29%) of those children who took part said they were getting less pocket money than three months ago.

And for one in four (25%) children, it was also affecting the after-school clubs and activities they take part in.

Two in five (42%) said that, over the last three months, they weren’t getting as many treats – like sweets or games.

And two thirds (66%) said that they were helping their family with their energy bills by making sure they leave their gadgets and electrical devices on less during the day.

But a much bigger concern is that one in 10 children (12%) reported that they weren’t eating three meals each day, as often as they were three months ago.

‘Heating or eating’

When people talk about the cost of living crisis, a phrase you might hear on the news is people being faced with the choice to “heat or eat”.

This means that, for some families, bills are so high that they may have to chose between keeping their home warm by putting the heating on, or making sure everyone is getting enough food.

Almost three in 10 (29%) of those who responded to our survey said that they sometimes skip meals – but this wasn’t always due to the cost of living crisis.

Most of those who skipped meals said it was because they just weren’t hungry.

However, one in seven (14%) of those who skipped meals said it was because there wasn’t enough food at home, and just under one in 10 (9%) said it was because they couldn’t afford to buy food at school.

When families are struggling to afford to buy food, sometimes they turn to foodbanks.

Foodbanks are a bit like supermarkets, but everything is free, or much cheaper than usual.

According to foodbank charities, the cost of living crisis means that more and more people are using them for help.

This could be because people have lost their jobs or don’t have enough money coming in to the house.

One of the biggest foodbank charities in the UK is the Trussell Trust.

In November 2022, they said that over the previous six month period, nearly 1.3 million food parcels were handed out – almost half a million of which went to children.

They say they have seen more than 320,000 new users in that time too – many of them from families that have jobs but aren’t earning enough money to get by.

In our survey, children around the UK were asked if they knew about foodbanks and if their family had ever used one.

About one in seven (14%) of those who responded said that their family has used a foodbank.

As most school classes contain on average of 30 children, you could look at that proportion as around four children in each class.

Of those who said their family do use them, two in five (43%) said they use them sometimes, but one in six (16%) of this group said that they use them often.

Two in five (42%) said they have used them more often in the last few months.

Help and support

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, there is lots of support out there for you to get help.

You can speak to an adult you trust, like a parent, guardian or a teacher.

You can also visit the Newsround website by clicking here where you can find loads of tips and advice if you are feeling worried.


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