Children’s charity frontline workers warn families fear ‘going under’ during coronavirus outbreak

  • Action for Children launches emergency appeal to help vulnerable families stay afloat
  • Investigation with charity service workers on the frontline shows families fear they won’t be able to properly feed children and babies
  • One mum says: “We’re literally living hand to mouth. I’m struggling mentally and trying not to panic, to hold the family together, but I’m also thinking ‘what next?’ A lot of parents are saying kids who are normally quite together have been upset and in tears.”

Vulnerable families across the UK fear they won’t be able to stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis, a new investigation by Action for Children revealed today – as the charity launched an emergency appeal to prevent desperate families from reaching breaking point.

Nearly one in every three children in the UK was living in poverty before the crisis hit. But the charity is warning this unprecedented health and economic crisis is now set to force even more families to choose between feeding their children and paying bills.

Action for Children carried out telephone interviews with workers representing 60 of its frontline services across the UK, including children’s centres, services for disabled children and young carers, as they struggle to support families in increasingly difficult conditions.

  • Families reported being most worried about not being able to afford food, followed by electricity and gas, then nappies. Other concerns raised included access to baby formula and uncertainty over help paying the rent if they can’t work.
  • The vast majority of frontline workers interviewed said they were already speaking to parents worried about having enough money to stay afloat during the outbreak.
  • Nearly two thirds said they didn’t think the government was doing enough for children during the coronavirus outbreak.

Carol Iddon, deputy chief executive of Action for Children, said: “The coronavirus crisis has exploded into the lives of vulnerable children and families at a time when millions were already struggling to keep their heads above water – and now are terrified of going under.

“Action for Children’s frontline staff, who were running unofficial foodbanks to help those at risk of going hungry before the outbreak, are overwhelmed by the sheer desperation of frightened families who fear they can’t afford to keep children and babies warm and well fed. Some are even donating food from their own cupboards to help keep families from going under.

“Coronavirus has thrown all our lives, our communities and the UK into unprecedented crisis –families need to know they are not on their own. Our support workers will keep battling to help families come out the other side of this - but they need your help. We’re asking people to help a family hit by the coronavirus crisis and donate to Action for Children.”

Case study: Helen, 50, from Devon is a full-time carer for her seven-year-old, Sam, who is autistic. The family has just been managing to get by thanks to her husband’s earnings as a taxi driver, but the impact of coronavirus is already hitting their income hard.

“We’re literally living hand to mouth and when my husband said he’d only had a couple of driving jobs in a day, I didn’t know what to do. Our main worry is if it comes to the point where money runs out. What if we can’t put food on the table or how long before we can get Universal Credit? What if we get ill and are stuck in lockdown? Nobody has an answer.

“On top of that routine is essential with Sam’s autism – I’ve been worrying about things like what we’re going to tell him now we can’t afford chicken nuggets for tea. He loves school, but once they’ve closed for most kids he might have to attend a random school that has provision and that will be really unsettling.

“I’m struggling mentally and trying not to panic, to hold the family together, but I’m also thinking ‘what next?’ Or wondering where I can find bread and milk. It’s hurting the children too - lot of parents are saying kids who are normally quite together have been upset and in tears.”

To support Action for Children’s emergency coronavirus appeal which will help families cover the cost of the basics, please visit, call 0300 123 2112 or text ‘CHILDREN’ to 70175 to donate £5.