Poor children being 'fed diluted milk', report finds

Baby being fed a milk bottle Image copyright Getty Images

Some UK children are living in cold, damp and overcrowded conditions and being fed diluted milk, a report says.

Of 266 doctors, 40% said they had had trouble discharging a child from their care because of not wanting to send them back to inadequate housing.

One doctor said it was "not unusual" for families of up to seven people to live in one-bedroom flats.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, which compiled the report, called it "disturbing reading".

The study, carried out in conjunction with the Child Poverty Action Group, found examples of parents depriving themselves of food to care for their children and having to rely on food banks.


Others could not afford clothes, toothbrushes or toothpaste, the study found.

Doctors said some children were growing at a level lower than what would be expected due to poor diets.

A medic quoted in the report said: "I recently saw a child who was living in a mouse-infested house - the mum and baby plus four other kids were living upstairs as the mice had totally destroyed their living room."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Poor housing conditions can exacerbate breathing problems in children

Living in cold, damp and overcrowded housing makes respiratory conditions worse, with some children being unwell with back-to-back illnesses, the doctors said.

One added: "It is not unusual to hear about extended families of five to seven people, maybe more, living in one-bedroom apartments, or single mothers with two or three children living in bedsits with a shared kitchen and bathroom."

Almost a third of those asked said not being able to keep warm at home contributed "very much" to the ill-health of children and a third said it contributes "somewhat".

Doctors also said poverty had an impact on children's mental health, adding they felt "worry, stress and anxiety".

'Devastating effect'

Some said children were having a "little part of their childhood taken away, a part of their day they will spend worrying instead of playing or learning".

Health promotion officer at the RCPCH, Professor Russell Viner, said: "Poverty has a devastating effect on child health and this report makes disturbing reading."

Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said: "Day in, day out, doctors see the damage rising poverty does to children's health.

"Low family incomes, inadequate housing and cuts to support services are jeopardising the health of our most vulnerable children.

"We can and must do better to protect the well-being of future generations.

"Re-instating the UK's poverty-reduction targets would be an obvious place to start."

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