In April 2022 the rate of inflation in the UK hit a whopping 9% - the highest we’ve seen for 40 years. Inevitably the cost of living has also increased, now becoming a nationwide crisis with households facing impossible increases in their expenditure. A staggering 23.4 million people have been unable to afford the cost of living over the last few months, leaving people in a financial crisis.
Families who have already struggled through financial hardship have been pushed even further into poverty over the last few months, struggling to make ends meet. Schools offering free extra curricular activities have seen a dramatic increase in the number of students attending breakfast clubs and after school clubs over recent months, with parents struggling to pay for a food shop to feed the whole family, or pay their household bills such as gas and electricity.
Recent figures have shown that nearly a quarter of students in the UK are now eligible for free school meals – these figures are up by 32% since the pandemic first hit in 2020. Over the next few months it is likely that these figures will continue to rise as parents battle the cost of living crisis, trying to provide themselves and their children with a healthy and happy home.
Experts have predicted that the hit to households this year could increase to around £43 billion - with the Government only announcing a £9 billion funding to help with household energy bills.
What is inflation?
You may be wondering what inflation is and why it’s causing such a panic in the UK. Inflation is the increase in the price of something over a period of time. A classic example of inflation is the price of the small Cadburys chocolate bar Freddo - in 2000 a Freddo cost as little as 10p, fast forward 20 years and you’re looking at 30p for the small frog chocolate bar. That's a ridiculous 200% increase on its original price!
Why has inflation risen so much and what does it mean for my family?
We won’t go into too much detail about the ins and outs of inflation and the UK economy, we hear enough of that on the news! But it is important to understand why inflation is at an all time high right now to see how it is having an impact on families all over the country. We started to see an increase after the national lockdowns eased in 2021 due to an increased spending on goods during the coronavirus pandemic.
The war in Ukraine has also taken a huge hit on economies all over the world, with the price of energy soaring and the cost of materials and food production increasing there has been an evident negative impact worldwide.
Families all over the UK have spent the last 2 years trying to recover from the financial impact of the pandemic causing thousands of job losses, and have worked hard to raise the educational attainment of their children who have missed out on a significant part of their education due to the national lockdowns imposed across the country. The additional struggle of an increased cost of living could be enough to push hundreds of families into poverty, leaving them struggling to feed their families and pay their bills.
Have schools been impacted by the cost of living crisis?
Inflation has sent the cost of ingredients spiralling so many suppliers have inevitably had to increase their costs. Some suppliers have told schools they are doing everything they can to absorb the rising costs to avoid it having an impact on students, but at some point the increases will have to be passed on.
Without any additional funding from the government, schools may have to opt for smaller portions or use cheaper ingredients which may reduce the quality of their school meals. Some schools in the UK have already been forced to swap hot meals for sandwiches due to food price inflation and funding cuts nationwide.
Schools aren’t only going to struggle with the cost of meals, costs of materials and equipment have also gone up meaning that any works that need to be carried out to make school environments safer and better for students will come at almost double the cost.
How can schools help families and students affected by the cost of living crisis?
Despite the current rate of inflation causing chaos for school budgets, school leaders all over the UK are launching their own food banks and uniform swap shops and hubs to help parents manage their finances and to ensure all students are fed and clothed.
Food banks and food vouchers are often used in times of crisis for families who are overwhelmed with the cost of life's basic necessities such as food and water. Despite trying to cut back on costs and prioritise the necessary things many families are currently still finding it difficult to make it work. The rising cost of food and day to day essentials such as fuel and travel, combined with employment insecurities and benefit scheme changes across the country has created a shift in society causing hundreds of families to suffer in silence.
Parents who are struggling to provide for their children financially often say there is a feeling of embarrassment to speak out and ask for help, with a fear of being judged by others. Schools can help to overcome this by providing a welcoming and friendly environment with an open-door ethos to ensure the school is approachable and non-judgmental. To encourage parents to feel comfortable with asking for help, the communications with parents throughout the school year from teachers and other staff should consist of consistent and regular communication through multiple channels - this could be through school apps, emails, newsletters or even a simple phone call home.
School uniforms can be a very costly part of sending your child to school, with children growing out of clothes so quickly and spilling everything and anything down themselves daily it’s never going to work just having one school uniform for the year. Schools can help parents with the expense of school uniforms by being more lenient when it comes to the actual items of clothing - for example allowing students to be flexible with uniform and wear clothing that is within the school guidelines of colours and formality. This takes the pressure off parents to replace uniforms regularly throughout the school year.
Families in the UK are spending around £52 million each year on new school uniforms and yet a shocking 1.4 million wearable school uniforms are thrown away each year. Schools can help to ease the pressure of spending such a fortune by providing a uniform recycling scheme whereby parents donate their children's used school clothes for other parents to use. Whilst uniform recycling schemes are great for saving money, they are also good for the planet!
There are other smaller things that schools can implement to help parents and families who may be struggling, simple forms of communication and support include the targeted use of notice boards, newsletters, emails, social media posts and website blogs/information. These platforms can all be used to signpost emotional support services or income support services for both students and parents and guardians.
How can I as a parent find support for me and my children during these difficult times?
There are so many outlets of support available for parents who are experiencing any type of financial or emotional hardship, but these outlets can sometimes be difficult or intimidating to get involved in. Being involved in support groups on social media platforms has proven to be extremely beneficial for many parents since the pandemic, the online nature of the support allows parents to be vulnerable and ask for advice and support without the feeling of being personally judged.
Parents should take advantage of the extra curricular activities that are put on by schools and educational companies to support families juggling work or financial issues, such as breakfast clubs or after school clubs and classes. These activities are often available at subsidised costs or free of charge for families who qualify, so it’s definitely worth parents checking to see if they could be entitled to any discounted or free activities for their children. Not only are the activities fun and good for children, but they also relieve some of the pressure on parents to be doing activities after school - which inevitably comes at a cost.
Learning Cubs support for families
Learning Cubs was initially created to help disadvantaged children to excel in their studies, however over time our ethos has been not only to help the children to succeed but also to be a support system for families who are struggling. Our team works hard to ensure that the sessions are fun and engaging for students to give parents peace of mind that they are in safe hands with us!
Our services are available at subsidised costs or for some absolutely no cost at all. To find out if you’re eligible contact us or visit https://www.learningcubs.co.uk/book-an-assessment to book an assessment.