Well, gosh. That’s got people talking, hasn’t it?
Save the Children launched a new fundraising appeal yesterday; the first ever one to raise money to help children living in poverty in the UK. The appeal coincides with a new report ‘It Shouldn’t Happen Here’ which details the experiences of children and parents living in recession-hit Britain.
Every time you started up your computer, opened a paper, turned on the TV or listened to the radio yesterday, there was someone in front of you, sharing their opinion on it.
The reception was mainly positive, but not entirely. “Poverty doesn’t exist in the UK.” screamed one person commenting on a news story. “It’s an obscene political stunt.” yelled the Daily Mail. “I am becoming increasingly concerned about [Save the Children’s] political involvement” huffed a Conservative MP.
One of the best summaries I’ve seen of the arguments on both sides was blogged by Alex Cobham, Save the Children’s Head of Research. I don’t have the expertise that he does, but I can’t help adding in my tuppence worth.
Do you know how Save the Children started?
“A Starving Baby and Our Blockade has Caused This“. That was the headline on a leaflet drawing attention to the plight of children on the losing side of the First World War. Save the Children’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, was arrested and fined for distributing it in Trafalgar Square.
After the war ended, the British government kept up a blockade that left children in cities like Berlin and Vienna starving. Tuberculosis and rickets were rife.
Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy Buxton decided that direct action was needed as well as campaigning. The Save the Children Fund was set up at a public meeting in London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1919.
The charity is founded on helping children who are suffering because of Government policies. Of course they are a political organisation. How are they supposed to be anything else? But political doesn’t have to mean party political. The majority of people may only know Save the Children from seeing their adverts on television, raising money to help children in famine and drought struck parts of Africa, but their work has always needed to be wider than that. They have an entire team whose work focuses on behind the scenes political lobbying, trying to change policies (domestically and internationally) to improve the lives of the children. That work goes on no matter which party is in charge at the time, and to suggest that this campaign is motivated by party politics rather than a genuine desire to help children in the UK strikes me as bonkers.
Surely, no matter which box you put your tick in when you step into a voting booth, you can’t think that it’s okay for parents in the UK in 2012 to have to choose between providing their children with clothes or providing them with food.
The money that Save the Children raises, will go towards two different programmes
- Eat, Sleep, Learn and Play which provides basic essentials, cots, beds, cookers, toys and other items to low income families.
- FAST (Families and Schools Together) which helps children in the most deprived areas get a good start at school. Our aim here is to give children a permanent route out of poverty – we know that poor children are six times more likely to leave school without any qualifications than their better off friends.
As well as attempting to raise £500,000 there are three things that Save the Children is calling on the Government to do.
- encourage more employers to pay the living wage, so parents can earn enough to lift their children out of poverty
- to strengthen the new welfare system – Universal Credit – by allowing working parents to keep more of their earnings before benefits are withdrawn
- to help parents afford to work by providing extra child care support so 80% of costs are covered.
I’m planning to write to my MP about that later today, but meantime I’d be really interested to know your views on the campaign? Do you support what Save the Children are doing?
You can find out more about the campaign, read some case studies, or donate online on their dedicated campaign pages.