Children going without in 2012 and 1999: Britain

This table shows the percentage of children in Britain in 1999 and 2012 who lacked, because their household could not afford, each of the items and activities seen as necessities for children and, for 2012, the numbers of children affected. All items and activities were seen as necessities in both 2012 and 1999 apart from a ‘Computer and internet for homework’ which was seen as a necessity in 2012 but not 1999 and ‘Child has friends round for tea or a snack once a fortnight which was seen as necessity in 1999 but not in 2012. Items and activities with n/a in the 1999 column were not included in that survey.

The items and activities are initially ranked in descending order of the percentage seeing it as a necessity in 2012 (see Attitudes to child necessities, UK, 2012). You can rank by the percentage who cannot afford the items and activities in 2012 and in 1999, by the numbers of children (in the relevant age group) affected in 2012, and by the change in percentage points between 1999 and 2012 by clicking on the up/down arrow at the top of the column. You can also sort by which age group the items and activity applies to by clicking on the up/down arrow at the top of the column. To return to it ordered by the percentage seeing the item as a necessity in 2012 click the reset button.

Children lacking child necessities, 1999 and 2012

Child can't afford 1999 & 2012

Child necessities 1999 2012 Numbers of children (2012) Percentage point change 1999 to 2012 Which children?
Warm winter coat 2% 1% 100,000 -1 0 to 18
Fresh fruit or veg at least once a day 2% 3% 400,000 1 0 to 18
New properly fitting shoes 2% 4% 500,000 2 0 to 18
Three meals a day 1% 1% 100,000 0 0 to 18
Garden or outdoor space to play in safely 4% 5% 600,000 1 0 to 18
Child celebration or special occasions 4% 1% 100,000 -3 0 to 18
Books at home suitable for their ages 0% 2% 200,000 2 >2 to 18
Meat, fish or vegetarian equivalent at least once a day 4% 3% 400,000 -1 0 to 18
Suitable place at home to study or do homework n/a 5% 500,000 n/a >5 to 18
Child hobby or leisure activity 3% 6% 500,000 3 >5 to 18
Toddler group or nursery or play group at least once a week for pre-school aged children n/a 4% 100,000 n/a <5
Indoor games suitable for their age n/a 1% 200,000 n/a 0 to 18
Enough bedrooms for every child aged 10+ of a different sex to have their own room 3% 11% 600,000 8 >10 to 18
Childrens clubs or activities such as drama or football training n/a 9% 1,000,000 n/a >2 to 18
Computer and internet for homework (not a necessity in 1999) 36% 6% 500,000 -30 >5 to 18
Some new not second hand clothes 3% 4% 500,000 1 0 to 18
Day trips with family once a month n/a 21% 2,500,000 n/a 0 to 18
Outdoor leisure equipment, such as roller skates, skateboards, football, etc 3% 6% 700,000 3 0 to 18
At least 4 pairs of trousers, leggings, jeans or jogging bottoms 3% 5% 600,000 2 0 to 18
Going away on a school trip at least once a term 2% 8% 600,000 6 >5 to 18
Money to save n/a 32% 2,800,000 n/a >5 to 18
Pocket money n/a 16% 1,300,000 n/a >5 to 18
Child holiday away from home for at least 1 week per year 22% 26% 3,200,000 4 0 to 18
Construction toys (like lego, duplo etc) 3% 5% 500,000 2 0 to 18
Child has friends round for tea or a snack once a fortnight* 4% 8% 1,000,000 4 0 to 18

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Source: PSE UK 2012, PSE Britain 1999


Items in red italics are based on a small number of cases in the survey.

* This item was seen as a necessity in 1999 but fell just under the majority in 2012.



Overall, the extent of deprivation among children in Britain increased between 1999 and 2012.  For 13 out of the 18 items and activities covered in both the 1999 and 2012 surveys, the percentages who could not afford that items or activity rose while for four items and activities it went down and for one stayed the same.

The greatest increase, as measured by the percentage point increase, was for those who cannot afford enough bedrooms for every child over 10 of a different sex to have their own – up by 8 percentage points from 3 % in 1999 to 11% in 2012. That is out of every 100 children, 8 more were in overcrowded conditions in 2012 compared to 1999. The second greatest increase is for those who could not go on a school trip once a term – which quadrupled from 2% in 1999 to 8% in 2012 – a 6 percentage point increase.

There were some exceptions with improvements in three items seen as necessities in both 2012 and 1999 ('warm winter coat', 'meat or fish or vegetarian equivalent once a day' and 'child celbrations on special occasions').

Notably, however, the greatest change was in the percentage who could not afford a ‘computer and internet’. This has seen a sharp increase in the percentage seeing the items as a necessity (up from 38% in 1999 to 66% in 2012) and the percentage who could not afford it fell substantially – by 30 percentage points from 36% in 1999 to 6% in 1999 to 6% in 2012.

Of the top three items and activities as seen by the percentage who see that item or activity as a necessity, the percentage going without went up for two of the items (‘fresh fruit and veg at least once a day’ and ‘new, properly fitting shoes’) and fell for one (a ‘warm winter coat’).

A number of the household items which affect children (see Households going without) went up significantly – notably those who could not afford to keep their home adequately warm and those who could not afford a damp-free. In 2012 one in five children lived in a home that was cold or damp.

Please note that there was a methodological change in 2012 compared to 1999 in the choice of options relating to activites (as opposed to items) to enable respondents who would like their child to take part in an activity but they couldn't (as opposed to those who did or those who didn't want to) to distinguish between the reason being lack of money or some other cause. In previous surveys there was only the choice of 'can't afford' and not one offering 'any other reason'. The 2012 percentage for those who cannot afford an activity is likely therefore be an underestimate compared to 1999 as respondents in 2012 were provided with this additional choice.

For further details see the Key Findings, Going backwards – 1983 to 2012, the PSE:UK final report on ‘Child poverty and Social exclusion’  and the PSE:UK first report, ‘The Impoverishment of the UK’.

For an overview of the causes of this rise in deprivation see Breadline Britain – the rise in mass poverty, by Stewart Lansley and Joanna Mack (Oneworld, 2015, £9.99).

Survey details

The 2012 figures come from the PSE UK 2012 Living Standards survey and the 1999 figures come from the PSE Britain 1999 Living Standards survey. See PSE survey details for the sample size and sampling frames of both surveys.

First posted:  1 June, 2016

Author: Joanna Mack


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