Money Wellness
A sad boy looking out of a window
category iconcost of living
calendar icon05 Sep 2023

Over 70% of school staff expect to see more children with unclean clothes, hair and teeth

An increasing number of children are facing hygiene poverty, according to a survey of school staff.

What is hygiene poverty?

The survey defined hygiene poverty as being locked in poverty and having restricted options in times of crisis. This means people who are forced to choose between heating their home, paying their bills, buying food or keeping clean.

What the survey found

The survey carried out by the charity Hygiene Bank and cleaning brand smol found over 70% of those questioned expect the new term to see increased levels of hygiene poverty.

What are the effects of hygiene poverty on schoolchildren?

  • 72% of school staff surveyed said children had low self-esteem because of hygiene poverty.
  • 53% said youngsters were being left out by other pupils.
  • 50% said they'd seen children's mental health suffer.
  • Staff thought the effects tended to be worse for secondary school pupils who are more likely to experience a negative impact on their mental health, absenteeism and bullying.


One school staff member said:

“It is heartbreaking to see students suffer because of being unable to afford to stay clean.”

Little support

Despite the growing problem:

  • Only 40% of schools are able to loan clean uniform to pupils who need it.
  • 49% of school staff surveyed said their school doesn’t offer support or they don’t know if their school offers support to struggling families.
  • Just 15% are able to offer a free laundry service at school.
  • Only 13% are able to offer free laundry detergent.

Taking it into their own hands

As a result of the lack of help available, many staff feel driven to personally intervene:

  • 24% of those questioned knew of school staff who had washed uniform or kit at home for pupils.
  • 16% of those surveyed had taken clothes home to wash themselves.
  • 12% knew of staff handing out free laundry detergent.
  • 10% had handed out free laundry detergent themselves.
  • 20% want to help but don’t feel able to intervene.

Call for action

The school staff who took part in the survey have called on the government to do more, including:

  • Offering supermarket vouchers for hygiene products to Pupil Premium students
  • Cutting VAT on essential hygiene products
  • Giving out free sanitary towels, deodorant and body wash
  • More funding for schools
  • More cost-of-living support


Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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