Primary School Children in Britain Affected by Poverty

britain-poverty

One in four families surveyed have gone without toiletries because of financial difficulties

 

Primary school children are arriving for their lessons unwashed and in dirty clothes, because their parents cannot afford to buy washing powder, soap or shampoo, according to a survey by a UK charity.

More than four in ten parents (43%) who took part in the survey said they have had to go without basic hygiene or cleaning products because they can’t afford them, while almost one in five (18%) admit their child wears the same underwear at least two days in a row.

Schools are intervening to support struggling families who are having to choose between food or personal hygiene. More than half of primary teachers who took part in a parallel survey said they provide pupils with washing powder, soap and shampoo on a weekly basis because of family hygiene poverty issues.

Two-thirds of primary school teachers who responded (63%) said they see children turning up in dirty clothes; almost half (47%) have children who come to school without having cleaned their teeth, and eight in ten said they have seen an increase in the numbers of pupils coming to school unwashed.

Head teachers and experts are concerned about the resulting impact on children’s self-esteem when their peers won’t sit next to them and make fun of them because of poor hygiene. Almost half of teachers (46%) questioned said they see children who are bullied because of hygiene issues.

Child psychologist, Dr. Richard Woolfson, said:

“Children’s self-esteem is greatly affected by the reaction of those around them – and if they are stigmatised, ridiculed or rejected by their peers because of poor basic hygiene, their sense of self-worth will quickly nose-dive.” 

Head teachers and experts are concerned about the resulting impact on children’s self-esteem when their peers won’t sit next to them and make fun of them because of poor hygiene. Almost half of teachers (46%) questioned said they see children who are bullied because of hygiene issues.

Nicola Finney, the head teacher at St Paul’s Church of England primary school in Stoke-on-Trent, said she was having to dip into the school budget to supply toiletries, washing powder, toothpaste and deodorant as an increasing number of families could not afford to buy their own.

“We have seen significantly more children coming into school with washing and hygiene issues over the last few years,” she said. “It used to be just a couple of children across the school, but now there are two or three in every classroom dealing with these issues.”

Finney said she had spent hundreds of pounds of her own money helping pupils to buy these items because she couldn’t bear to see them go without. “On one occasion I bought a washing machine for a family who had just had a newborn baby and had nowhere to wash their clothes.

“We have been considering installing a washing machine in school and we stockpile spare, washed uniforms so pupils can get changed and sent home clean – and nobody is any the wiser that we have stepped in to help.”

The survey which involved 2,000 parents of primary school children and 100 teachers across the UK was commissioned by the charity In Kind Direct, which receives donated goods from companies and distributes them to UK charities.

It found that a third of teachers who responded (36%) have provided toothpaste, 29% have provided soap, 27% head lice products and 27% have bought a child a toothbrush. In Kind Direct has distributed £195m of surplus goods including hygiene and washing products since 1997.

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