NEW REPORT: Parents and Primary School teachers across the UK are reporting Hygiene Poverty amongst children on a vast scale

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NEW REPORT: Parents and Primary School teachers across the UK are reporting Hygiene Poverty amongst children on a vast scale


A study of both parents and primary school teachers released today reveals teachers are stepping in and providing soap, shampoo and laundry products to pupils arriving at school unwashed.

Half of British primary school teachers are having to provide pupils with essential items like soap, washing powder and shampoo on a weekly basis because of family hygiene poverty issues, according to a new, independent study commissioned by UK charity, In Kind Direct.

Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, In Kind Direct found that 80% of teachers have seen an increase in the last 5 years in the number of pupils coming to school looking unwashed and in dirty clothes.

Eight in ten primary school teachers say that, worryingly, they’ve seen a rise in the numbers of children coming to school unwashed or not looking presentable in the last five years and have found themselves intervening at an increasing rate.

In Kind Direct also polled 2,000 parents with primary school children and found that many are struggling to make ends meet:

• 18 per cent admit their child now wears the same underwear at least two days in a row
• 43 per cent say they’ve had to forgo basic hygiene or cleaning products because they couldn’t afford them
• 26 per cent have to wear the same shirt or blouse for at least a week and 3 per cent for a fortnight or more.
• One in five parents admits they can’t afford to wash their children’s clothes as often as they would like (19 per cent).
• 14 per cent confess they have struggled to afford soap or shampoo

Just last year, In Kind Direct identified the issue of hygiene poverty for the first time in the UK. With little money to cover the cost of everyday essentials, families are being forced to choose between buying food or personal hygiene and cleaning products.

Nicola Finney, Head Teacher at St Paul’s C of E Primary School in Stoke on Trent, which receives products from In Kind Direct, says;

“We now make allowances in our very tight school budget to make sure we can buy personal hygiene and washing items, such as toiletries, washing powder and toothpaste as well as spare uniforms, shoes and deodorant, because we know increasing numbers of families simply can’t afford to buy them.

“Over the years I have spent hundreds of pounds of my own money helping pupils by buying these items because I couldn’t bear to see them going without, and I know other colleagues have too.

“On one occasion I bought a washing machine for a family who had just had a new born baby and had nowhere to wash their clothes. Now as a head teacher, I don’t want to see my staff having to put their hands in their own pockets, even though I know they still do. We have a dedicated team in our school to address this and to look at pupils’ needs.

“We have been considering installing a washing machine in school and we stockpile spare, washed uniforms so pupils can get changed and sent home clean – and nobody is any the wiser that we have stepped in to help.

“The biggest effect is on the children’s feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Children as young as five are seeing themselves as being different. Other children might not want to sit with them and their comments can be very hurtful. This can also have a huge impact on parents’ mental health when they have such difficult choices to make.

“We have seen significantly more children coming into school with washing and hygiene issues over the last few years. It used to be just a couple of children across the school, but now there are two or three in every classroom dealing with these issues.

“I’ve spoken to teachers across the country and they are doing the same as us. We want all of our pupils to get the best outcomes, not just those that can afford the basic essentials to keep themselves and their clothes clean and presentable.”

• Two thirds of primary school teachers questioned said they see children turning up in dirty clothes (63 per cent), and
• Almost half say they have children who attend without having cleaned their teeth (47 per cent).
• A third of teachers (36 per cent) have provided toothpaste, 29 per cent soap, 12 per cent laundry products, 27 per cent head lice products and 27 per cent have bought a child a toothbrush.
• As a result, 78 per cent of teachers have had to refer families to local charities for help, like those In Kind Direct also supplies its products to.
• Indeed, 18 per cent of teachers say they have to resort to doing this every single week, with the problem starkest in London – where 50 per cent do this weekly – and in the North East, where 29 per cent do this every week.

Dr Richard Woolfson, child psychologist, says;

“Children’s self-esteem is greatly affected by the reaction of those around them – and if they are stigmatised, ridiculed or rejected by their peers because of poor basic hygiene, their sense of self-worth will quickly nose-dive. No child wants to be taunted because they are dirty, or because their clothes are filthy. They’ll start to lose interest in their education, their friendships will suffer, and they’ll be reluctant to attend school.

“That’s why hygiene poverty has such a devastatingly negative effect on a child’s psychological development, not just on their health but also on their confidence, self-esteem, social relationships and class work.

“Any strategy that reduces this unwelcome and preventable stress in children’s lives will be welcomed by families who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis.”

In Kind Direct is distributing more products than ever before. The charity has distributed £190 million in donated products to mostly small charities since operations began in 1997.

Robin Boles, Former Chief Executive of In Kind Direct, says;

“The results of our latest study are a shocking reflection of the growing scale of family hygiene poverty across the UK. Teachers are increasingly being relied upon to step in to provide pupils with everyday essential products because their parents simply can’t afford to make ends meet.”

“Alongside this, we have seen a sharp rise in the number of people who are increasingly relying on support from the charities across the UK to which we supply products.”

“It is clear that hygiene poverty is hitting families hard and is having a huge impact on children’s wellbeing at school. No child’s education and future life chances should be compromised because of the stigma they face, simply because their families can’t afford the hygiene products to keep themselves clean.”

One in six parents (16 per cent) fear their child may be bullied, teased or picked on due to personal hygiene issues and 6 per cent say it makes their son or daughter ‘sad’.

Nearly half of teachers – 46 per cent – say they see children who are bullied due to hygiene issues. Meanwhile, 54% observe it causing low self esteem, 32 per cent health problems and 41 per cent say these children struggle to concentrate on their work.

Robin Boles continues; “At the same time, £2 billion pounds of unwanted, surplus consumer goods are produced in the UK each year according to research carried out by PwC, on behalf of In Kind Direct.

“This demonstrates the huge opportunity for more companies to help their communities by donation their products to In Kind Direct. In Kind Direct is the only organisation which has taken on the administrative and logistical complexity of distributing donated products to charities serving people in need throughout the UK.

“Despite having worked with 9,000 charities so far, helping more than two million people every year, there is still so much more that can be done.”

In Kind Direct is calling on more manufacturers and retailers to build product giving into their everyday operations. This will benefit communities, their business and the environment – helping to tackle ‘hygiene poverty’ at the grassroots through its growing network of charities.

Notes to Editor
• Parent survey: The research was carried out by Mortar London on behalf of IN KIND DIRECT, which conducted an online survey among 2,000 parents with children up to the age of 11 across the UK. The sample of adults was randomly selected and weighted to be representative of the UK population for gender and region. The research was conducted between 20th and 27th April 2018.
• Teacher survey: The research was carried out by Mortar London on behalf of IN KIND DIRECT, which conducted an online survey among 100 primary school teachers across the UK. The sample of adults was randomly selected from our survey panel. The research was conducted between 19th and 20th April 2018.
• In Kind Direct’s unique model enables manufactures and retailers to put their surplus stock to good use by donating it for distribution to charities.
• In Kind Direct has distributed new consumer products donated by some of the UK’s best-known retailers and manufacturers to over 9,000 charities working in the UK and abroad.
• In Kind Direct is a one-stop solution providing the infrastructure to accept large quantities of goods and then stores, sorts and delivers them directly to charities in its network.
• In Kind Direct has made a powerful impact on communities through the distribution of over £190 million worth of surplus goods from 1,000 companies including some of the UK’s best known manufacturers and retailers: Amazon, L’Oréal, The Disney Store, P & G, Johnson & Johnson, Pentland Brands and Colgate Palmolive.
• More information available on the In Kind Direct website: