A young girl looking sad sits on a doorstep

A crisis on our doorstep

The deepening impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children and young people in the UK and recommendations for action.

Our research, A crisis on our doorstep, exposes the severe impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children, young people and families across the UK.

No child should grow up in poverty, yet even before the cost-of-living crisis intensified over winter 2022-23 the situation was critical, with more than one in four children living in poverty.

A crisis on our doorstep takes a closer look at how the national situation is affecting children, families and young people using Barnardo’s services. What we found was deeply concerning. Too many children are going hungry, their health and wellbeing is being affected, families do not have access to essential items, and many are finding it hard to stay safe and warm.

Growing up in poverty means children miss out on opportunities and their physical and mental health suffers - all of which can affect them long into adulthood. We are working urgently to get extra help to the families we support but the current situation is unacceptable. We need all governments across the UK to take action.

It's hard, very hard and obviously with the price rises and everything, in November we were going with no gas to eat. It was how bad it was. I was in tears. What do you do? Put the gas on or feed your kids? Even like the cooking situation. If you've got no gas you can't cook.

Sarah, a mum supported by Barnardo's in Birmingham.

What does our latest evidence show?

Infographic saying one in four parents are struggling to provide sufficient food

Infographic saying half of parents worry their children are missing out on experiencing a normal childhood

New evidence in our report, A crisis on our doorstep, shows that:

  • more than one in seven parents (16%) say their child or children have had to share a bed with them, their partner or a sibling, because they cannot afford another bed. 1 in 14 parents (7%) say this is happening right now
  • almost one-third of parents (30%) worry about losing their home or being made homeless
  • almost a quarter of parents (23%) have struggled to provide sufficient food for their child due to the cost of living, up 3% from October 2022 (20%)
  • half of parents (49%) worry about their child or children missing out on experiencing a normal childhood due to cost of living cutbacks.

Read more in A crisis on our doorstep. 

The mould is running up the walls and they’re sleeping in the same bed together even though her daughter is about four. We do see issues about families having to share beds quite a lot. Quite a lot of parents we work with are doing that. It’s quite hard sometimes with these issues because we see it so much we just get used to it.

Barnardo’s practitioner, Newport, South Wales

What needs to happen?

We are calling on governments across the UK to:

  • take more targeted action to reduce child poverty
  • extend the provision of free school meals
  • embed preventative approaches to reduce the impact of poverty on children’s health
  • strengthen social security so the poorest families can afford to replace or repair essential household items
  • prioritise innovative solutions to keep children safe and warm for longer such as extending family hubs to every community and implementing a total ban on forced prepayment meter installations

Primary school kids especially – they shouldn’t be worrying about money. They shouldn’t be worrying about putting debt on their parents just because they wanted to eat lunch. It’s horrible. The only thing they should be worrying about is what homework they need to do.

Helen (22), Northern Ireland, participant in focus group on preventing hunger.

  • A young girl looks hungrily at some food

    No child should grow up in poverty

    With your help, we’ll demand free school meals for children, and ensure children and their families are warm and well fed this winter.

  • A parent holding a child's hand

    Get support

    Struggling with the cost-of-living crisis? Don't be afraid to ask for help. Get advice and support today.

  • A young girl looks sadly out of a window

    Help children feeling cold, hungry and left out this winter. 

    Help us support families struggling through the cost-of-living crisis