Over two thirds of children in poverty in the capital will go hungry during the school summer holidays unless charities provide free food and activities, new research by The Childhood Trust has has found. The same number say they are afraid of being targeted by gangs and over half report a high risk of being sexually exploited because their parents have no choice but to leave them at home alone. Child poverty campaigners said the research showed how school summer holidays offer a ‘bleak outlook’ for growing numbers of children in London. The Childhood Trust has warned that cuts to youth services and charity grants – which disproportionately affect low income families – mean more than half a million children in the city will go hungry during the long summer holidays.
Child activists from one of the capital’s poorest boroughs have worked with The Childhood Trust to launch a manifesto calling on the government to end summer holiday hunger and provide free activities to make sure vulnerable children are safe when they’re not at school.
Pupils from Peckham, who earlier this year made a film to show what it is really like to use a food bank, have been sharing their harrowing experiences of being beaten up, bullied and too scared to go outside during the summer holidays. Aged just 9, one of the children involved revealed how she had been targeted and assaulted by gang members. She said: ‘Every time I’d come outside they’d punch me and hurt me and tease me. ‘I still have the scars on my knees from where they hurt me.’ The Trust, which launched its Summer Give campaign to support children during the holidays, said half of children in poverty under the age of 11 will be left without adult supervision because of the price of holiday clubs.
On average it costs £121 a week to send a child to a holiday club – more than £700 for the duration of the summer holidays. ‘Local councils have cut youth services by 44 per cent on average since 2011 and there are not enough places for children to attend,’ the Childhood Trust said. ‘Whilst the government recognises the impact of poverty on children during the summer holidays it has failed to address this with just £9.1million of funding allocated to support 50,000 children in 11 areas of England. ‘Councils in London have suffered the largest cuts to annual youth services budgets with Westminster’s funding per child slashed by more than half, from £1,591 to £761.62.’
The Trust’s chief executive Laurence Guinness said: ‘It’s heart breaking to see seven, eight and nine year olds appealing to the government to provide proper funding for children who are going hungry and are terrified during the holidays. ‘Cutting youth services is a false economy and is contributing to increased crime, youth violence and child exploitation.’ Since 2013, the Trust has raised £12.56 million in match funding campaigns for over 150 projects ‘to provide a lifeline for London’s poorest kids’, Laurence said.
The Summer Give 209 raised £852,000 to support over 12,000 disadvantaged children throughout London this summer.
Watch the Children's Summer Holiday Manifesto film: