Financial Times, 17 March 2024:

For Melloney Grant, a single mother with two boys who works part-time, it is the school holidays that fill her with foreboding. That’s when the free school meals and breakfast club that help stretch her household budget during term-time are no longer available. It’s then she battles just to keep food on the table. “I have two boys, they’re eating all the time, and I dread it,” she says.

Her two sons, Ethan, 11, and seven-year-old Isaac, are part of a growing slice of the UK population living in what the UK government calls “relative” child poverty — defined as living on less than £360 a week for a single parent with two children after housing costs, which is 60 per cent of the UK’s median household income. It is a broad measure, but in practice it is an indicator of a family’s ability to get by and “participate in the society in which they live”, according to the Child Poverty Action Group, which campaigns to eradicate child poverty.

Child poverty conjures images of kids in rags on Victorian streets and in some cases it still means households choosing between food and electricity, but it also includes families where the relentless struggle to get by is slowly throttling opportunities. Or in the view of Chloe Russell, the deputy head of Monksdown Primary School in Liverpool where Isaac attends, it is the difference between a child “thriving or just surviving”.

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