THE shocking truth of what life is really like for Wales' poorest families is revealed by a children's charity in research released today.
Parents in Wales today are having to choose between heating their homes or giving their children nutritious meals, as they struggle desperately to pay for basic necessities.
Save the Children commissioned face-to-face research with 200 low income families in Wales, and the results reveal:
95% of low income parents in Wales have gone without to make sure their children have enough;
Eight out of 10 said their children have missed out on activities such as after-school clubs, school trips, and inviting friends for tea;
More than one in 10 low income families have resorted to borrowing from loan sharks to make ends meet.
Keith Towler, Save the Children's programme director in Wales, said, "It is outrageous that there are children going to school in Wales without a warm coat this winter. We've spoken to parents who've had to choose between heating their homes and feeding their children properly. Children living in Wales today are clearly missing out on a happy, healthy childhood."
The Welsh Assembly Government recently set out a series of milestones aimed at eradicating child poverty in Wales by 2020. The Labour Party in Wales has also named ending child poverty as a key pledge in the run-up to the Assembly elections next May.
Keith Towler said, "We really welcome this commitment from Rhodri Morgan, and would like to see all parties in Wales make ending child poverty their key manifesto pledge for children. But we also believe that to succeed, we must have action from the UK Government, which has responsibilities for the tax and benefit system."
In launching its research findings, Save the Children wants the UK Government to introduce seasonal grants to help the poorest families at expensive times of year, at a minimum of £200 for each household in the winter.
Keith Towler said, "Families are telling us that there are certain times of year when they're really struggling, and that's especially true in winter, when fuel bills are higher and families need to buy warm clothes for their children. Winter fuel payments for pensioners have shown how successful targeting vulnerable groups can be, and we believe that these seasonal grants could lift 440,000 children across the UK out of poverty."
He added, "The collapse of Farepak recently has shown how careful low-income families are with their budgets. Introducing a small payment such as these seasonal grants for the poorest families would really help those who are struggling in Wales this Christmas."
Matthew (not his real name) is a teenager living in the Cynon Valley.
"I'm the only worker in my house, so I know how everyone else feels. That's why I'm trying to start my family on a different line, I'm trying to make it work for them," he said.
"It's just having basic necessities, which most people have got, but people who grow up in a deprived place haven't got at all. It's stopping them having all the things you should have in life like warm food, a tidy bed, a clean house. If you haven't got a clean house you can even go to the doctor's more, because you come down with the flu more often.
"There's lots of ways it can affect you, because you can't buy new soap when you need it, toothpaste, flannels.
"In school I used to get bullied, and called a smackhead, because I didn't have all the stuff I needed which they had.
"Everyone will gang up on you just because you're from a certain place.
"I missed out on holidays. Things that are coming out I have to wait years and years for. You feel terrible when you're being bullied because you can't buy trainers, but when you actually achieve your goal and get trainers I think you're much more pleased to have them.
"I still feel poor because I'm only on £60 a week.
"I'm paying off my debts, because I've bought trainers on catalogues because I can't afford to go out and buy them straight off.
"I had to buy my phone from a catalogue so I've got to pay weekly with that as well.
"I'm left with £10, £15 a week and that's gone by Saturday.
"I don't use public transport, I'd rather walk.
"There's no point catching the train for three miles. It's £1.40 a single, there's no point paying that when it's only a 40-minute walk.
"It's not the way to live. For working you should be able to have more stuff."