Coalition Britain 2012: Children lose out as day trips break the bank for many families

Research by the Sutton Trust shows low income children are likely to do much less well in school if they are unable to access leisure activities.

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Anthony McCaul is the senior media and campaigns officer for the charity Family Action

Can you imagine never being able to go on a week’s holiday?

Children-lolling-on-a-beachFor some of the families we interviewed for Family Action’s latest report – Breaking the Bank: Summer on a Shoestring (pdf) – this is the reality they face in austerity Britain.

A parent from Hackney said:

I’ve never been on holiday with my children. I can’t afford it.”

A week’s holiday away from home is out of reach for the majority of children both in the squeezed middle and the very poorest households according to government statistics.

The latest 2012 Households Below Average Income survey shows that children in 62% of the poorest families in the very bottom income quantile want but can’t afford a week’s holiday compared with 6% of those in well off families. This figure is 51 per cent for those children in the second quintile.

And whilst a holiday away in the UK may be a pipe dream for lots of the disadvantaged and vulnerable families we work with, price rises and cuts to income of those in and out of work mean that many families will struggle to afford even day trips.

Fifty four per cent of parents polled by Family Action said they were cutting back on day trips this year. This matters because poor children are missing out on experiences that their peers enjoy and thrive on.

We are concerned by these figures and findings because the ability of children to access at least a week’s annual holiday away from home with their families is one of the indicators used by government to estimate material deprivation in childhood.


See also:

Two children in every classroom go hungry 5 Jul 2012

Tackling child poverty: the story so far 13 Jun 2012

Social mobility desperately needs to be top of the national policy agenda 31 May 2012


The Joseph Rowntree Foundation Minimum Income Standard updated last week also highlights a week away from home – as well as the ability to afford days out – as an essential part of everyday life.

With research by the Sutton Trust showing that low income children are likely to do less well in school if they are unable to access leisure activities this is something we should care about if we want to boost social mobility.

Families commented in our report that the biggest expense for days out was entry fees, with parents also raising concerns about the cost of transport and eating out in attractions where it was difficult to take your own food.

Parents said that they would pay for day trips from the family budget, squeezing other spending so that their children had a positive experience. And it wasn’t just day trips that put pressure on family finances over the summer. For families whose children receive free school meals there is the extra pressure on the family budget to put more food on the table for children.

Parents also commented on the cost of school uniforms as another worry.

So what do we want to see happen to ease the pressure on parents and enable all children to be able to enjoy their childhood and share experiences? Family Action is calling on government to recognise the role of adequate financial support for families so that they reach a minimum income standard which allows parents and children access to days out and holidays to improve children’s experiences and educational progress.

Parents we interviewed also complained about inflexible ticketing and unfair pricing by holiday and attraction operators so we’re calling on holiday companies to offer fairer and more flexible ticketing during these tough economic times to improve access and concessionary structures. We’d also like to see local authorities look at how they can improve community facilities and transport pricing so that families can enjoy local days out cheaply.

In the spirit of the Big Society we want to see improving support for community organisations to facilitate low cost educational days out for children and families in their area.


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