Many households’ financial situation declined during the pandemic. 39% reported worse financial health, and just 16% better. Gaps have widened, with 52% of disadvantaged households reporting worse financial health, compared to 34% of others. 22% of professional households reported an improved financial situation, over twice that of working class households (10%).
One in ten young people (10%) were living in households classed as food insecure, with many reporting running out of food, skipping meals, and 5% of parents reporting going a whole day without eating.
Social renters were six times more likely to experience food insecurity than those who owned their home (26% vs 4%). Rates of food insecurity were highest in the North East and North West (15% and 12%), and lowest in the South East (9%) and East of England (7%).
8% of parents used a food bank during the pandemic period, three quarters of whom had also used food banks pre-pandemic. Food poverty is not restricted to Free School Meals eligible families. The majority (57%) of households where children went hungry were not FSM eligible during that time, and 36% of those using foodbanks were not FSM eligible.
Pupils in families who reported using food banks during the pandemic received lower GCSE grades (almost half a grade per subject), even taking into account previous grades and other aspects of their household finances. However, long-term disadvantage played a bigger role than the pandemic.
Pandemic financial experiences were more closely linked to mental health. Among families finding it very difficult to get by financially, rates of psychological distress were 82% among parents, and 53% among children. Among parents this is four times higher than those living comfortably.
Rates of psychological distress were substantially higher in households who started using foodbanks in the pandemic (53% among young people and 63% among parents), compared to 41% and 33% for those not using foodbanks. They were also slightly higher than ‘long term’ users, potentially indicating the impacts of short-term financial shocks.