EVEN HARDER WINTER PREDICTED AS NEW ABERLOUR SURVEY REVEALS PARENTS SCARED OF THE LONGER-TERM IMPACT OF POVERTY ON THEIR CHILDREN
Scottish children’s charity Aberlour has warned that a decade of rising and stagnated poverty levels in Scotland combined with the impact of the pandemic, the increasing cost of living and the end of the Universal Credit uplift, will have long-term implications for children and families living in Scotland’s most deprived areas.
In response, Aberlour today launched its ‘Poverty to Hope Fundraising Appeal’ to support children and families through what is going to be a dark and hard winter – second time around. The charity knows that poverty, like COVID19 has long-term effects and is committed to supporting families throughout. As restrictions lift and life begins to resume as normal for many, the reality is not the same for the increasing numbers of families trapped in poverty.
The Aberlour survey found that seven in ten parents are concerned about their children’s future chances, with more than half (55%) anxious about their children staying up to date at school. Meanwhile 60% of parents are worried about their children’s mental health. In addition to The Aberlour survey, Scottish Government statistics also shared the news that one in four children in Scotland are estimated to be living in poverty.
Aberlour family support workers, featured in the new fundraising appeal, relay their everyday experiences of working with children and families swept up in the tide of poverty and struggling to keep their heads above water. They report an increasing number of children missing out on life experiences, inadequate clothing, not sure where the next meal is coming from, afraid to put the heating on and fears around the long-term effects on children’s mental health and education.
Wendy, Aberlour Family Support Worker says: “Children affected by poverty are losing out on life experiences. They are not getting the same opportunities as other children. Families are finding it hard to provide for their children and their basic needs are not being met. Children are going to bed without adequate bedding and with empty tummies. It’s heart-breaking.”
Lisamarie, Aberlour Family Support Worker says: “For families caught in poverty there’s increased chances of poor mental health, domestic abuse, isolation and not making ends meet. Most of all, I worry about the children’s mental health and their future prospects.”
This is set against a backdrop of really challenging circumstances for the poorest families. The combination of the end of furlough, reduction in the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, spiralling utility prices and cost of living and likelihood of interest rate rises is conspiring to make it an even longer, harder winter.
Professor Morag Treanor from the Institute of Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University says: “This survey confirms what I and my colleagues are also finding. More and more Scottish families are being dragged under by the rising tide of poverty and are simply unable to keep their heads above water. The stress this puts on parents can be unbearable and results in multiple adverse effects on them and their children. Aberlour’s work to challenge this situation for families, working alongside them long term, offering support to the whole family as well as cash for the basics via their Urgent Assistance Fund is very powerful and I am pleased to support this important campaign.”
The situation is reflected in rising demand for Aberlour’s Urgent Assistance Fund which since March 2020 has given over £1.5m in cash handouts and short-term relief to 5,090 families and 10,927 children in poverty. The charity continues to be inundated with applications to its Urgent Assistance Fund this winter and funds are dwindling dangerously.
SallyAnn Kelly, Aberlour Chief Executive says: “Over the past decade the number of children living in poverty has continued to rise and we have seen a corresponding rise in stress amongst struggling families. Then the pandemic hit and brought health, social and economic challenges – it’s been a perfect storm. Families, who were already struggling, are at breaking point, and as we’ve seen from the research parents are most concerned about their family finances and the mental health and future chances of their children.
“Aberlour is committed to supporting families in the long term. We stand by children and families for as long as they need us and that can often be for many years. We strive to provide a beacon of hope for their future.
“We’ve launched our Poverty to Hope Appeal, to raise awareness of the desperate situation thousands of children and families are facing right now. We are asking the public to donate what they can this Christmas so that we can continue to offer long term support and hope to more children and their families.”
Rory had a bad start to life: his parents had separated, and Rory lived alone with his dad. After the separation, Dad was struggling to cope, and his house was not the ideal environment for a child to grow up in. Children are so perceptive, and Rory was seeing and witnessing things no child should.
Over the years, Aberlour did everything to make Rory’s home life better, but eventually something had to give. His older sister Lucy became Rory’s legal guardian, giving him the chance to grow up in a more stable, loving home. But one thing stood in the way: money. Lucy simply could not afford to buy an extra bed for Rory to sleep in, nor did she know how she would cope financially long term, having to raise two kids of her own. She was already trapped in poverty but was desperate to help Rory. Before Rory moved in with Lucy, he was falling behind in school. He’d lost all confidence and even begun to believe he was a failure.
After Rory moved in with Lucy, his grades improved dramatically. All it took was a safe and loving relationship, some quiet encouragement, and a laptop for Rory to do his schoolwork on, which Aberlour provided. After a while, Rory started coming along to the Youth Club, and thanks to his growing confidence, he shared with us that he had a dream of his own: that one day he would like to become a professional cyclist, like his hero Sir Chris Hoy.
Aberlour sourced bikes which were just in need of some love (and repairs). Rory learnt how to fix a bike himself and he’s now the proud owner of one. He’s also thinking about joining a cycling club. Anne, a family support worker for Aberlour said, ‘’I can hardly believe the change I’ve seen in Rory over the past few years: from a quiet, sad toddler, to a confident, warm young man, who’s daring to dream despite the challenges life throws at him.’’
Too many of Scotland’s young people, who, like Rory, didn’t get the start in life they needed, are growing up with no hope.
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Watch our Poverty to Hope appeal video here: