Charity highlights impact of repeated moves for children living in poverty

Neil Puffett
Monday, March 27, 2017

The stress and uncertainty of repeatedly packing up their lives and moving home is becoming a "worryingly normal" part of life for some children growing up in poverty, a charity has warned.

A three-year study by The Children's Society found that moving house multiple times was a key issue for children, with one nine-year-old having moved home at least eight times and attended four schools.

The report, called Growing up in Hard Times, was produced in partnership with the University of Bath based on interviews with 60 children. It found that children were shouldering a number of burdens as a result of growing up in poverty: making long journeys to school, having to stay indoors in unsafe neighbourhoods and struggling to sustain friendships after moving area or school.

One 11-year-old boy who took part in the study said: "I'm just thinking why couldn't they let us live in one place instead of keep moving around. If we stay there for two, three, four months then we have to start packing again, then we have to leave, unpack. Yes, it just keeps going like that."

The study found that divisions between poor children and their peers became more marked at secondary school, with some children, particularly teenage boys, speaking of going hungry as their free school meals money fell short of their needs. Children also reported being punished for breaking school rules on uniform and other equipment because their family couldn't afford the right kit.

Children were also found to be keenly aware of their families' money worries. They said they didn't want to ask their parents for money or items they needed because they knew their parents had little to spare. One nine-year-old girl said she and her brothers took it in turns to beg strangers or friends and family for money when family finances reached breaking point.

An 11-year-old girl said: "If my friends say ‘can I stop at yours tonight?' and my mum says yes but then they say ‘will you ask your mum if you can buy loads of munches for us so we can like have a proper munch out' and then I say ‘yes of course I'll ask her, I'll go ask her' and then I'll walk downstairs, sit downstairs, watch TV for five minutes then come back and tell them that I've asked her and she said no… because I don't really want to ask her for loads of things, because if she says no, I'm going to feel bad."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "The heartbreaking testimonies of children in this report offer a glimpse into the harsh realities of life for the four million children growing up in poverty in the UK.

"Moving from place to place, living in neighbourhoods where they are frightened to go outside, and travelling for hours to get to school are pressures that no child should have to deal with. Yet for some of the children we interviewed, these have become normal parts of their lives. This lack of stability and security is hugely damaging to children's wellbeing and could have long-term repercussions for their mental health."

The charity is calling for the government to ensure that financial support for housing costs increases in line with local rents for families who are renting privately, to help poorer families secure their children's homes over the long term.

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