Rapid funder action needed to support children through cost-of-living crisis

Naomi Chapman
Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Across the UK, thousands of charities are currently supporting children and young people through the summer holidays, while the cost-of-living continues to rise.

4.3 million children in the UK were growing up in poverty before the pandemic, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock
4.3 million children in the UK were growing up in poverty before the pandemic, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock

Whether providing meals, activities, education or care, charities act as a vital safety net to many children and young people.

In the autumn, when the schools are back, we will all enter a very challenging period, with inflation rates at their highest level in 40 years and rises in fuel prices beginning to bite.

For families already struggling with existing financial hardship, the cost-of-living crisis is an enormous issue. Currently, approximately 40 per cent of the parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s network of foodbanks are for children, and the bigger your family, the more likely you are to be in poverty. Many families will need to turn to charities for support in order to survive.

4.3 million children in the UK were growing up in poverty before the pandemic. At the outset of the coronavirus crisis, charities feared a double bind of rising demand for their services and falling income. Now, this double bind has the potential to become a triple bind, with rapidly rising costs also affecting the support they can provide to children and young people, who need help more than ever.

Recent research by NPC has revealed a risk that services will close and provision for children and young people will be dramatically reduced without significant support. The same factors which make life harder for families also constrain the charities which are trying to help them. Here is what charities that support children and young people are experiencing:

  • Rising costs: The rising prices for food, energy and petrol are significantly increasing costs for charities working with young people, with a particular impact on those providing meals, operating out of venues, and organising trips. For example, meal provider Magic Breakfast has seen the cost of ingredients rise 17 per cent already this year, while demand for breakfasts has doubled. For charities commissioned by local authorities to deliver youth services, many budgets were fixed several years previously, and therefore providing that support is becoming increasingly unviable.

  • Falling donations: Despite rising costs and rising demand, financial support for charities is falling. Polling by the Charities Aid Foundation found that 14 per cent of the UK public plan to cut back on charity donations in the next six months to help manage bills, and the value of pre-pledged grants from corporates and trusts will be eroded by the rise in inflation.

    The drop in donations is more than just monetary: baby bank charity Little Village is receiving less second-hand items, with families selling items rather than giving them away. Chance Changing Lives, a community pantry in Cheshire, are anticipating having to close their services to new referrals if donations don’t pick up.

  • Staffing and recruitment: After a challenging few years, charity staff are burnt out, struggling, and some are seeking employment elsewhere. The youth sector is particularly vulnerable to this risk: it has the third highest vacancy rate on popular recruitment site CharityJob,and has a high proportion of staff on low wages who may move to other sectors that are better able to increase salaries in response to inflation.

In this challenging climate, now is the time for philanthropists and funders to get on and give. Funders supporting children and young people urgently need to uplift grants to existing grantees, widen their grant-making to new recipients in response to rising need, and make support as flexible as possible to allow charities to respond to rapidly changing circumstances.

NPC’s new guide, Confronting the cost of living crisis: How funders can mobilise, will help you to further understand the pressures facing children and young people, and how to fund effectively to help charities adapt.

Naomi Chapman is a consultant at social sector thinktank NPC


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