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.