Save the Children’s UK poverty appeal has garnered heated criticism from Tory MPs and certain corners of the press, who have accused the appeal of being political move against the coalition government.
Last week, for the first time in its 93-year history, Save the Children UK launched an appeal to the UK public for £500,000 to help Britain’s poorest children. The charity says British children are bearing the brunt of the double-dip recession.
At the Daily Mail, Douglas Murray, Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, said ‘the fact is that thanks to the welfare state and our benefits system, no child in Britain can possibly be said to be living in that kind of poverty – without food or heating – unless their parents are grossly misusing their handouts.’
‘Save the Children should be ashamed of this propaganda,’ said Ross Clark at the Times, who insisted that the charity’s campaign is ‘political’. ‘Save the Children has evolved from an aid charity into a political pressure group against cuts.’
The charity’s report on child poverty highlighted hardships faced by children in Britain, including the revelation that ‘one in eight of the poorest children in the UK go without at least one hot meal a day, and one in ten of the UK's poorest parents have cut back on food for them to make sure their children have enough to eat’.
Laura Gardiner, Inclusion's child poverty policy lead, points out that 'Save the Children’s campaign draws attention back to the fact that millions of children in the UK live in poverty, as defined by the Child Poverty Act 2010. The research that Save the Children has published is valuable in contextualising the experiences of children that live in poverty, and the struggles that they and their families face on a daily basis. An understanding of the challenges faced by poor families is essential to designing policies and initiatives that move us closer to the 2020 child poverty targets enshrined in law be the previous government.'
Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Clacton, told the Daily Mail that the report was too simplistic: ‘This report is about the prejudices of the people who work for this charity.’
Conservative MP, Brian Binley, voiced concerns over the intentions of the charity's Chief Executive, Justin Forsyth, who had worked for the last Labour government. Mr Binley warned that ‘we must be aware of the danger that he was committed to a particular government for a sizeable amount of time.’ He added, ‘I am not saying that they are being politically motivated there is a danger that it could be seen as that, they must question their own motivation closely because they could do an awful lot of damage.’
Mr Forsyth responded: ‘It is a shame that some critics want to divert attention from the powerful insight our campaign has given into the lives of the very poorest children in Britain today.
‘The unusual step we took was to ask children themselves their views. The appeal was based on strong independent polling which told us that some of the poorest families in the UK are struggling without basic essentials like food and heating.
‘Save the Children is never party-political - we are a charity - but we do believe it is our responsibility to speak out on behalf of children.
‘This is an urgent issue for all political parties. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world and no child should grow up without daily essentials such as a hot meal, a warm coat or shoes that fit.’
Mr Forsyth called for the coalition to make it easier for parents to work and to require employers to raise wages.
The report, 'Child Poverty in 2012 - It shouldn't happen here', was raised in the House of Commons last week by Alison McGovern, a Labour MP, who challenged the Prime Minister about the growing use of food banks.