Published On: Tue, Dec 19th, 2023

Plea to ditch Secret Santas and buy gifts for struggling children instead | UK | News

Christmas should be a magical time for children, waiting for Santa to arrive, unwrapping presents and feasting on a roast dinner.

But the cost-of-living crisis this year has led to a dramatic rise in the number of children falling into poverty and children facing destitution have tripled (187 per cent) since 2017.

Many of these children, as well as thousands with critical illnesses and disabilities, will wake up on Christmas day with nothing as their families are being forced to make impossible choices due to rising prices.

This is why the Daily Express is supporting a charity’s mission to ensure every vulnerable child receives a present this Christmas.

UK children’s charity Dreams Come True is urging the public to ditch Secret Santa this year and use the money to buy a child in need a gift through the charities’ Giving Tree.

An online ‘Giving Tree Shop’ has been set up where toys and even dreams, like a day out, can be purchased and donated.

Instead of being delivered to the purchaser, they will be sent to the charity for distribution to Dreams Come True to support a vulnerable child.

All of the items in the online shop are the most requested toys and days out from children in need, according to the charity.

Goodies include baby dolls, books, cuddly toys, food vouchers, puzzles, Lego sets, board games and footballs.

And there is the opportunity to donate money to help make the dreams of specific children in need come true, like a bedroom makeover or a trip to Disneyland.

Around one million children are currently estimated to be living in deep poverty, according to the Childhood Trust.

Their families are unable to meet their most basic needs of keeping them warm, dry, clean, and fed – let alone pay for the extra costs at times like Christmas.

Laurence Guinness, the Chief Executive of the Childhood Trust, said: “There’s no good news this time of year if you’re in that situation.

“You see the spectacular Christmas lights, you see the shops, you see the Christmas adverts, you see the stereotypes of happy families and abundance everywhere.

“Christmas is the pinnacle of consumer culture, hung on the emotional peg of giving and receiving.

“Everyone’s welcome, as long as you’ve got money. If you haven’t got any money, you can’t do Christmas. Many children actually dread Christmas.

“As we get nearer to Christmas, they just wish it wasn’t happening. They feel left out, rejected, and victimised. Why are they living in one room? Why doesn’t their mum have enough money to feed them?”

And for disabled families with disabled children who rely on vital powered medical equipment, the cost-of-living crisis is still a matter of survival.

Mobility scooters need charging. Stairlifts require lots of electricity. Home-based medical equipment can be energy-intensive. But none can be switched off to save cash.

Disability equality charity Scope’s latest Disability Price Tag report revealed that disabled households with at least one disabled adult or child, face extra costs of £975 a month on average.

For households with two disabled adults and at least two children, these average extra costs increase to £1,248 a month.

James Taylor, executive director of strategy at Scope, said: “Life costs a lot more when you’re disabled. And the list of extra costs disabled people face is staggering.

“People need to use expensive but vital equipment like wheelchairs, hoists and breathing equipment. They face astronomical energy bills to power this equipment.”

It means Christmas gifts are out of the question for many this year.

A spokesperson for Dreams Come True said: “At Dreams Come True, we believe that every child has the right to dream.

“As the only UK wish-granting charity that solely focuses on children in the highest areas of deprivation, and with the cost-of-living crisis affecting so many more families, our dreams are needed now more than ever.

“To help us deliver more dreams we have launched our Festive Dream Tree. Just £5 could help an autistic child find their voice with access to their own tablet and specialised language learning app, or £15 could go towards a project such as an accessible playground, positively impacting hundreds of children in the local community.

“We are asking Daily Express readers to donate online to our Festive Dream Tree, where every donation creates a shining star. With this, they can leave their own message dedicated to a loved one or a child waiting for their dream.”

Help light up the Festive Dream Tree with messages of hope this season here:

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