Charity, Action for Children has warned that the UK risks ‘Dickensian’ levels of poverty as a new analysis of official government data¹ shows a million children under 10 years old face a desperate Christmas this year.

The Charity says that ss other young children spend December writing their Christmas wish-list to Santa, a million under-10s from low-income families are facing a bleak festive season, lacking basics such as a warm winter coat, fresh food or celebration.

And with the impact of austerity continuing to hit families hard, a new survey² for the charity also reveals many are increasingly feeling the squeeze at Christmas. Over the past decade, nearly half (46 percent) of parents say they have been cutting back on Christmas essentials like presents, Christmas dinner and a tree, while a quarter (25 percent) are getting into debt to afford them.

Action for Children is warning the double blow of austerity and ongoing problems with the introduction of universal credit could soon see the country facing Dickensian levels of poverty. The charity has seen a 30 percent rise in families seeking financial advice from its frontline services over the last three years³, and with so many families struggling, it plans to run unofficial foodbanks again over the Christmas period.

Action for Children’s Chief Executive, Julie Bentley, said “Our youngest children should be waking up in a warm bed after a visit from Santa on Christmas morning, but the shocking truth is that in 2018 many will be cold and hungry in the fifth richest country of the world.4

“No parent should be forced to face the appalling choice between ‘eating or heating’ at Christmas but this is the reality for far too many in the UK today. While the Government tells us austerity is at an end, every day at Action for Children, we see first-hand the impossible choices that families living in practically Dickensian levels of poverty have to make.”

“We’re helping thousands of families keep their heads above water through budgeting, providing a meal or making sure they get help from foodbanks. That’s why we’re asking the public to become ‘Secret Santas’ for a vulnerable child – whether you can manage £10 or £50, it means we can support the most vulnerable children in our society, not just at Christmas but every day.”chart