In the UK, it is estimated that 13 million people are affected by poverty. 1 in 6 children live in relative poverty where the household income is less than 60% of the UK’s average. Pressures on local services and cuts to benefits have meant many vulnerable people including families, young people and those with a disability have experienced financial difficulty. Although meaningful employment does help to empower workers to lead fulfilling lives and provide for their families, having a job does not guarantee a life out of poverty. A sudden loss of earnings, a change in family circumstances or having benefits sanctioned have all contributed to Britons feeling overstretched and at a crisis point.
Over 33% of Muslims live in London, within the capital’s most deprived areas. Across the country, British Muslims are over represented in unemployment, homelessness, poor housing and low educational achievements. Three quarters of children from Pakistani/Bangladeshi households in the UK grow up in poverty and live on less than 60% of the average UK income.
As a result, families are responding by cutting back on essentials such as heating and food in order to afford housing. Although official statistics do not exist, service providers claim that an increasing number of people have been turning to emergency food aid, such as foodbanks. Government statistics show the link between pupils eligibility for frees school meals and their achievement levels; in 2014, 63.6% of pupils on free school meals achieved level 4 or above in reading, writing and mathematics in comparison to all other pupils who had an attainment level of 81.6%. Anti-poverty campaigners have highlighted the concerns of poverty and the long term implications it has for communities.
Muslim Hands has been working with community groups in some of the most deprived areas of the UK to deliver targeted services. We are providing support to breakfast clubs in schools to help children receive a nourishing start to the day, helping them perform better in the classroom. We are also supporting food banks and soup kitchens as a primary measure to alleviate the pressures of poverty, and are working towards identifying long-term poverty alleviating strategies through a holistic approach.