What it is really like for children growing up in poverty in the UK in 2019 – Part 1

A Buttle UK survey of over 1,200 child support workers.

By Reason Digital · July 15, 2019

Applications for Buttle UK’s Chances for Children grants come from a unique network of frontline support workers who are interacting with the most vulnerable children and young people across the UK on a daily basis.

These individuals include family support workers, community project workers, social workers, health visitors, school careers advisors, probation officers, advocacy/advisors, youth workers, community nurses, tutors and head teachers. They work for organisations such as local authorities / councils, charities, housing associations, advice services, local healthcare trust partnerships, primary and secondary schools and children’s centres.

We surveyed support workers to find out about their current experiences of working with children in poverty. While all these individuals are used to seeing child poverty on a daily basis, their feedback illustrates the extent of some of the challenges that families are currently facing.

We had over 1,200 responses, making this an extremely comprehensive survey.

Results have highlighted:

Just how often children are having to survive without the basics:

  • 60% of support workers are often (i.e. more than once a week) seeing families who are unable to afford the basics (food, household items, fuel).
  • 50% of support workers are often seeing children fed breakfast and/or dinner at school because families cannot afford to feed them themselves.
  • 48% of support workers are seeing families unable to afford the costs of children’s clothes and shoes.

Particular concerns with the summer holidays coming up:

  • 65% are seeing families unable to afford / have no access to holiday activities.
  • 53% are seeing families unable to afford food and childcare during the holidays.

Support workers report that 54% of families being supported are living in destitution, and nearly three quarters of these support workers (74%) have seen an increase in the number in the last year.

49% of support workers see families who are working but are not earning enough to make ends meet more than once a week, and 21% of workers see this problem on a daily basis.

18% of support workers have seen an increase in the number of families needing financial support when at least two people in the household are working, and 39% have seen an increase where one person in the family is working.

Nearly 100% said they saw families experience issues of rising debt, delays due to Universal Credit and cuts to welfare services to some extent, but 30% reported they see families experiencing all of these problems on a daily basis.

85% of support workers see families being affected by violent crime, and 37% are seeing this more than once a week.

Against the backdrop of these challenges, the picture in terms of available support is mixed:

  • The only areas where there is substantive growth is in the availability of support through foodbanks; 49% of support workers reported an increase in the availability of food banks.
  • Less than 15% reported an increase in availability of furniture recycling schemes, help with utility bills, help with rent arrears, local authority welfare assistance schemes, and free/affordable activities for children.
  • 20%-25% reported an increase in furniture recycling schemes and the number of charities providing grants for household items.


  • Over 40% reported a decrease in availability of support through local authority welfare assistance schemes, grant-giving charities and free/affordable activities for children.
  • 20%-33% reported a decrease in furniture recycling schemes, school uniform payment support, help with utility bills and with rent arrears.

 You can download the full report below.