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Half of London children witness violence and drug taking during school holidays

Photo by Cengizhan Konuş

DISADVANTAGED children face a summer holiday from hell this year. Whilst off school, 54% of children have witnessed violence and a further 48% have seen drug misuse. In addition, 45% of charities supporting children say youth violence in their community is “out of control”.

These are the stark findings from research by London’s child poverty charity, The Childhood Trust, ahead of this year’s long summer break and its “Summer Give” campaign. The report, which surveyed 22 charities supporting 12,337 young people, highlights that children are at high risk of violence, sexual exploitation and hunger without support from charitable programmes.

Set against a backdrop of increasing violence in the capital, two-thirds (65%) of children and young people reported being “frightened of being attacked or exploited” during the upcoming summer holiday. Moreover, 73% of the charities surveyed say children face a high threat of violence during the holidays, compared to term time. With the murder rate in London now higher than New York, in just one London hospital, there has been a 59% increase of admissions for gun and knife-related injuries in the first three months of this year.

Furthermore, 50% of charities say that the summer holidays mean a high threat of sexual exploitation. It is predominantly children from disadvantaged backgrounds that are most affected: children from the 30% most deprived areas are 7.5 times more likely to suffer sexual abuse than those in the least deprived 30%.

There has also been a dramatic increase in number of children reporting going hungry during the school holidays. In an 84% increase from last year, two-thirds (66%) of charities say that young people would go hungry if a charity did not provide meals for them.

Without the safety and structure of attending school and hard up parents having to work yet not earning enough to afford a holiday club (£121p/week on average), half of children under the age of 11 will be left alone and without adult supervision, up from a third last summer. This increases the risk of exposure to exploitation and crime. Local councils have cut youth services by 44% of average since 2011 and there are not enough places for children to go.

Chief Executive of The Childhood Trust, Laurence Guinness said: “Children are facing a summer holiday from hell this year. Violence, gangs and drugs are out of control in some areas and kids as young as 5 and 6 are left to wander the streets terrified, hungry and bored while their parents struggle to make a living. With reduced government funding it’s left up to charities to change this. Our Summer Give campaign doubles all donations to provide a lifeline for London’s poorest kids, funding projects to help keep kids safe, well fed and engaged in fun activities throughout the holidays.”

Matthew Patten, Chief Executive, Mayor’s Fund for London said: “At the Mayor’s Fund for London, we see what happens at the front-line when people go hungry. The problem facing us is not new and the results of this survey show that it is only getting bigger. It is unacceptable in a city as prosperous as London that children from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds eat a worse diet than those in more well-off homes. Ensuring that children have a healthy, active and positive start to life is of critical importance to the well-being of everyone in our city. That’s why we’re taking part in The Summer Give; to raise vital funds for Kitchen Social, which helps to strengthen local communities and provide heathy meals and activities for young people throughout the school holidays.”

Since 2013, the Childhood Trust has raised £8.3 million in match funding campaigns for over 150+ projects, alleviating the impact of childhood poverty. This year’s Summer Give will take place from 11th June to 15th June 2018 via the Big Give: theBigGive.org.uk/summergive and raise funds for 48 charities supporting disadvantaged children this summer. All donations will be doubled while match funds last.