Child forced off school with chilblains because family can't afford to heat home

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·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·5-min read
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The child lies and makes an inhalation. Focus on children's feet. Treatment of bronchitis, cough and asthma in children
Children in the UK are suffering with health problems after their parents are struggling to pay the bills. (Getty)

A charity has warned a growing number of children in the UK are growing up in households facing severe financial strain caused by the cost-of-living crisis.

Action for Children said that the most vulnerable families are not being protected by universal credit, and the youngest in society are suffering as a result.

The charity said that while the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic may appear to be receding, the hardships endured by too many families remain.

A wide-ranging report by the charity laid bare the extent of the crisis facing families who are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

The charity set up a Crisis Fund over winter to try and relieve some of the pressure for desperate families, and said that, of those who claimed the help, 54% were on universal credit.

It said families across Britain are cracking under further financial strains, with one-in-four saying they are skipping meals to save money.

The report also contains testimony from those on the frontline of the crisis.

One children's centre worker in the South West said that some parents are having to forgo basic heating as they simply cannot afford it — with one child forced to miss school because of chilblains.

Watch: Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clash over cost of living crisis

They told the study: “In one family I work with directly, a child was off school with sore feet.

"When we explored this further it turned out to be chilblains on the toes of both feet. I asked the child if he had got cold. They told me that the house is cold all the time as the heating is not on.

"The whole family were wearing coats indoors and the children were sharing beds at night to keep warm."

Chilblains are itchy, red patches of skin which can appear on fingers and toes after someone has been repeatedly exposed to the cold. It may cause someone's skin to feel like it is burning, or cause the fingers or toes to become red and swollen.

They usually go away on their own of the person can stay in warmer temperatures, and don't result in permanent injury. However, chilblains can sometimes lead to infections, which can cause damage if left untreated.

Read more: People ‘stealing soap and sanitary products’ because of cost-of-living crisis

Chilblains are itchy red swellings caused by excessive constriction of the small blood vessels below the skin's surface. Chilblains are normally caused by the cold and mostly affect the fingers and toes of children and the elderly. They generally heal without treatment. People susceptible to chilblains should keep their hands and feet warm in cold weather.
Chilblains are itchy red swellings caused by excessive constriction of the small blood vessels below the skin's surface. (Getty)
Infection next to the nail, in the toe of a patient. High quality photo
Chiblains can result in infections which can cause serious problems. (Getty)

Action for Children spoke to another woman — named as Leanne — who relies on universal credit despite working a 37-hour week as a finance officer.

And a recent pay rise hasn't helped the rising costs, as the increased salary was then taken off her universal credit - meaning she is no better off than before.

“I have no disposable income whatsoever," she told the charity.

"My electricity bill has gone from £188 to £279 a month, my council tax has gone up and I’ve had to increase my oil payments – last year they were 19.5p per litre, and now they’re over £1.23. Everything has gone up in the shops, too – from food to cleaning products."

"Things that were £1 are now £1.25 – a 25% increase - now imagine that for a whole food shop. It was a struggle anyway, but now things are so much worse," Leanne said,

Close Up Of Woman Holding Smart Energy Meter In Kitchen Measuring Energy Efficiency
Families across the country are struggling to pay their energy bills. (Getty)

"There's no way we can survive like this, it's just impossible. We have a food bank near us, but it's on a Friday at 10am and I'm in work.

"A lot of people think food banks are just for people who don't work, but people who work like me need them now.

“You read the reports about energy bills reaching £3,000 by the winter – how the heck are we going to afford that? We literally can’t live. And my kids can’t do anything fun – I can’t afford to take them on special treats like trips to a theme park or anything, that’s simply all gone for them now.

"I got a pay rise in line with the usual annual pay rises they give but whatever I got, it’s taken off my universal credit - so there’s no way for me to work more to get myself out of this situation, like the government says I could.”

On Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics confirmed inflation had risen to a 40-year high of 9% as rising food, energy and fuel prices, coupled with the war in Ukraine, take their toll on the UK's economic landscape.

Prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak are coming under growing pressure to help those at the sharpest end of the crisis.

According to YouGov, more than seven in 10 Britons (72%) now think the government is not doing a good job handling the economy, compared to just 19% who think the government is doing well.

Last week, the attorney general Suella Braverman claimed that single mothers were "better off" now than they were a year ago.

A Tory MP was also branded "out of touch" this week after suggesting workers who are struggling with the rising prices should either work more hours or go to a "better paid job".

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