RCPCH responds to JRF’s hardship on primary schools and primary and community healthcare report

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published research exploring what impact rising hardship is having in classrooms and primary and community healthcare settings across Britain.
Group of primary school students eating lunch at a table, with cafeteria staff behind
The report found: 
  • On average, primary school staff estimate 48% of their pupils had experienced hardship at some point since the start of the school year. 
  • Primary and community healthcare staff estimated 57% of their patients had experienced hardship at some point over the last 12 months. This rose to 71% for those working in deprived areas. 
  • On average, staff estimate more than a third of their pupils came to school hungry (35%) at some point this school year, rising to 44% in deprived areas.
  • One third of primary schools say they are even providing a school food bank, and a quarter say they are directly providing other essential goods such as toiletries, energy top-up vouchers, beds, and bedding.
  • 9 in 10 staff say that pupils or patients experiencing hardship has an impact on them as staff, their colleagues, or the wider organisation they work for.
  • 7 in 10 say supporting pupils or patients experiencing hardship is a challenge where they work; of those who say hardship is a challenge, two thirds say it makes it harder for them to do their job well.

RCPCH Officer for Health Improvement, Dr Helen Stewart, said:

This research again confirms what our members have been telling us, out of control rates of poverty are causing untold harm on the health and wellbeing of our future generation. 

Our health services are under extraordinary pressure already and have never been able to get back to pre-pandemic levels of demand. Poverty and hardship are exacerbating this problem and driving more children and young people to the NHS’s door, whether it be with deteriorating mental health, oral health, obesity, or even respiratory conditions from poor housing. Life expectancy is also impacted, with the mortality rate for infants living in the most deprived areas in England now almost three times higher than for infants living in the least deprived areas.

As a paediatrician, I relate deeply to the staff in this report who say pupils or patients experiencing hardship has an impact on them. We know seeing such hardship up close takes a real toll on our members, who have dedicated their lives to creating and safeguarding the good health and well-being of children. 

It is disgraceful to have 4.3 million children living poverty, especially in a nation as rich as ours. If the next UK government is serious about the health and economic stability of our nation, then they must address child poverty as a priority.