With energy bills set to rise exponentially and inflation following swiftly, there is deep concern from paediatricians about the health and well-being of children and young people. The RCPCH is now calling on the UK Government to provide children and their families financial support in line with the rising prices of energy, food, and housing.
Government support such as the Chancellor’s announcement in May had a meaningful impact for families across the UK, especially for those most vulnerable on lower incomes. However, predictions show the current flat-rate payments offered by the Government will fall short of making up for recent changes to living costs and benefits. We ask that the UK Government continues to support children and their families by urgently bringing social security packages in line with current energy costs and inflation. We also ask that both Conservative party leadership candidates urgently address how they will support families during the current crisis. Plans need to be in place now, not in late September.
One paediatrician told us:
My patient group tends to be largely from low income, vulnerable families. They have been hit disproportionately hard by the rising cost of living, which is a much larger proportion of their income than mine. They are particularly affected by rising costs of fuel to attend numerous appointments, power to run necessary equipment and nutritious food for their children.
It is essential that all children and young people have a base standard of living that promotes health and wellbeing – this includes access to dry and warm living conditions, a nutritious diet and good mental health. The cost-of-living crisis is also a health crisis, and swift action is needed to avoid disastrous long-term consequences for our future generations.
Dr Mike McKean, RCPCH VP for Policy said:
As we move into the winter months more and more families will be faced with impossible decisions. Pay their bills or feed their families? We are already hearing reports of parents skipping meals to feed their children, missed medical appointments due to high transport costs and children forced to live in cold, damp conditions. This is not the marker of an affluent nation such as ours.
Across the UK approximately 30% of all children are living in poverty — four million in total. This is already far too high, yet projections indicate this number will reach five million by 2030. Worryingly, these estimates were made before the rate of inflation rose to 8% and before the most recent predictions for the upcoming energy price cap. The UK faces a perfect storm of soaring energy bills, rising taxes and increasing prices. I am fearful of what will happen this winter if this crisis is not urgently addressed.
As paediatricians we can see the devastating impact of poverty on children and young people, and study after study shows the damaging lifelong effects to the individual and the country. We need to see action from Government now, to support these families in need before it is too late. We want all children in our society to thrive, not just survive.
We need to provide support and protection for children and families living in poverty and those at risk of falling into poverty. Our call today for further financial support for families in need is a moderate one. We are simply asking that children and their families can access the basic necessities needed to live a healthy life and reach their full potential.