Children blowing bubbles

Changing childhoods, changing lives

Type Policy and research document

Published on
4 March 2024

In 2024, the combined impact of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has exposed and worsened inequalities in our society. Families are struggling to make ends meet, children are going to school hungry and coming back to a cold home. Meanwhile, years of underfunding have left vital services increasingly unable to cope with rising levels of need for support.

In this report, we highlight some of the biggest challenges facing children and young people today and explain how we’re driving the change they need now and in the years to come. 

In November 2023, the UN warned that the UK was in violation of international law due to the number of families living in poverty. Today, 4.2 million children in the UK - more than one in four - are living in relative poverty (in households 60% below the median income after housing costs). Increasing numbers of children are struggling with poor mental health but aren’t able to get the support they need. And the challenges facing children are constantly growing and changing, with no sign things are going to get any better soon.  

Some of the biggest challenges affecting children include:  

  • The cost-of-living crisis and ongoing economic uncertainty 

  • Covid-19’s impact on children’s mental health, school attendance and early development 

  • The pace of change in use of digital technology, including the growth of artificial intelligence and virtual reality 

  • Global insecurity and the impact of climate change 

People my age struggle to get by with how little money they have due to prices going up; they’re not getting the stuff they need. But another thing too is that because of the cost of living, people struggle to pay for transportation to go to medical appointments and things like that which causes a lot of stress and then they feel like they have no one to go to.

Respondent to Barnardo’s 2023 survey of children and young people 

What do children think their future holds?

As part of this report, we commissioned a YouGov poll of 1,001 children aged 14-17 across Great Britain. They were asked to imagine themselves aged 30 and answer a set of questions about what their lives would be like at that age. 

  • 55% of children responding believe that their generation will not be as well off as their parents
  • 34% think their own children will be even worse off than they are
  • 61% don't think they'll own their own house - 24% think they'll still be at home with their parents and 10% in shared accommodation