There are more than four million young people growing up in poverty in Britain. A new documentary airing on Channel 4 this evening shows just what this can mean. Meals are skipped. Bedrooms are overcrowded. Homes are cold. Homework is impossible to focus on. Stomachs are empty. Foodbanks are a weekly event. For some, hope is in short supply.
Growing Up Poor: Britain’s Breadline Kids also shows the range of circumstances and bad luck that can lead to young people living in poverty. From funeral costs connected to the death of a sibling to a breakdown in parents’ relationship, fleeing abuse, ill health or redundancy.
Even though most of us are hungry, we have to be careful with our food
In the show we meet plucky Courtney and her family. Seven months ago they had to flee abuse and were housed in a three-bedroom flat – meaning their housing benefit was reduced due to the Bedroom Tax.
Courtney’s mum waited more than a month for their first Universal Credit payment, attempting to keep her family fed and housed on £5 a day in child benefit. It is no surprise to hear that they visit one of the eight foodbanks in Cambridge each week.
Courtney, who is upbeat, resourceful and smart beyond her years, says: “We don’t have a lot of money, but we have still got a house. I can’t always get what I want to eat because mum doesn’t have that kind of money. She doesn’t have much money because she is on Universal Credits.”
She was eight at the time of filming.
Danielle is 15 and studying for her GCSE’s while living in temporary accommodation with her mum. Her schoolwork suffers due to the stress of her living situation. It makes for uncomfortable viewing.
She says “I have to revise in my bed… There is a lot of stress going on, living in temporary accommodation… I can be really happy one minute and the next minute I can be screaming and shouting at everyone. Sometimes I get to the point where I will self-harm and I’ll feel like I want to kill myself but then I’ll think about how much it’ll impact me and impact everyone else in my life.”
When the Prime Minister claimed 400,000 fewer children were living in poverty than there were in 2010, he was wrong
These are the young people that Boris Johnson was wrong about in his interview with Andrew Marr last weekend. These are the children whose daily struggles he disrespected with his creative and dishonest use of statistics on national television.
When the Prime Minister claimed 400,000 fewer children were living in poverty than there were in 2010, he was not telling the truth. The child poverty numbers are on an upward trajectory and have been since 2011-12 – with half a million more young people living in poverty than just five years ago. There are now 4.1million children living in poverty in the UK – a much higher level than in 2010. The Resolution Foundation says there will be record levels of child poverty in 2019.
In 2018-2019, a record 1.6 million food bank parcels were given out across the UK’s Trussell Trust food bank network- a 19% increase on the year before. This Christmas a record number of people in the UK will be relying on food banks.
This includes children like Cameron, who lives in Morecambe Bay. At nine-years-old, he is already regular visitor to the local Food Club. He says: “Even though most of us are hungry, we have to be careful with our food. So we try not to eat a lot in one day.”
It is a documentary to inspire fury. It is full of stories that should inspire fundamental change. Britain’s Breadline Kids are the children that Prime Minister Boris Johnson cannot deny…