Children bullied due to ‘hygiene poverty’


Children are being sent to school in dirty clothes with unbrushed teeth as parents can no longer afford toiletries.

This has become such an epidemic that 46% of teachers have now seen children bullied because of their hygiene issues, according to a report by In Kind Direct.

Parents – who are blighted by low wages, high housing costs and benefit cuts – are struggling to afford even the most basic of hygiene products.

More than four in 10 parents have gone without hygiene products due to costs; while one in five admit their child wears the same underwear at least two days in a row.

Teachers are now seeing a dramatic surge in this type of poverty, with eight in 10 teachers saying they have seen an increase in the number of pupils coming to school unwashed.

Living without a washing machine

Parents who do not have a washing machine in their home are at the forefront of this crisis – stuck between the choice of getting into high-interest debt to buy adequate white goods or relying on expensive and inconvenient laundrettes.

Families who choose to use laundrettes pay approximately 2,561% more on laundry costs, spending around £1,039 more than people with a washing machine in their home.

One in five people who come to us for support are currently living without a washing machine, many of whom cannot afford frequent trips to the laundrette, so simply do without clean clothes.

Teachers stepping in

Teachers across the country are paying for household basics out of their own pocket to give to children and their families.

The scale of which teachers are seeing this problem – 63% of primary teachers have seen children turning up in dirty clothes – has resulted in teachers buying not just soap and toothpaste for their students but also in some cases items like washing machines.

  • 36% of teachers have provided toothpaste
  • 29% of teachers have provided soap
  • 27% of teachers have provided head lice products
  • 27% of teachers have provided a toothbrush.

Pritie Billimoria, Head of Communications at Turn2us, said:

“If children don’t have the very basics, then they will inevitably struggle to learn and thrive in the education system and future generations risk being trapped in poverty.

“This isn’t about shaming the parents; this is about getting help to families at risk of being pulled into poverty before it enters the classroom.

“Teachers should not be the financial backstop for families. This should never be normal. Teachers should never get used to seeing children facing the harshest consequences of poverty.

“There are grants and benefits available to make sure families aren’t going without the very basics in life – we urge everyone to check what they are entitled to and eligible for. “

See the Get Support section on the Turn2us website for more information on what might be available in benefits and grants.