London child activists launch anti-poverty manifesto

The Peckham children are taking action after The Childhood Trust found that two thirds of London kids living in poverty will go hungry this summer

A group of child activists from Peckham have created a Summer Holiday Manifesto demanding the government takes action to help disadvantaged children during the holidays.

The seven, eight and nine-year-olds teamed up with the Childhood Trust after the charity discovered that two thirds of London children in poverty will likely to go hungry while off school unless a charity provides food and activities for them.

Earlier this year the children, who all live on the same estate and worked together in an animation club at the Bell Gardens community centre, made an award-winning film about a boy who was bullied because his family relied on a food bank.

The film Our Peckham: Foodbank and The Fidget Spinner was made in collaboration with production company the Rainbow Collective.

As well as lobbying authorities to extend extra support to children living in poverty during the holidays, the group is campaigning to help their peers feel safe leaving their homes over the summer. The children shared their own experiences of being bullied, feeling lonely and being too scared to go outside.

One girl said: “I was ganged up on by a group of seven boys. Every time I’d come outside they’d punch me and tease me and hurt me and I still have the scars on me knees from when they hurt me.”

High poverty rates mean many families can’t afford holiday clubs (£121 per week on average) so half of children under the age of 11 will be left home without adult supervision. Meanwhile local councils have cut youth services and activities by nearly 45 per cent since 2011, disproportionately affecting children from low income families. The rate of fatal stabbings in London is at its highest since records began.

The Childhood Trust sent the manifesto in a letter to children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi on behalf of the children.

In it, chief executive Laurence Guinness said: “I hope that you will personally acknowledge and applaud the children’s efforts in ensuring that all children can receive support when they need it the most. And, critically, that the ideas in the Summer Holiday Manifesto are constructively received and considered for action by your department.”

Guinness later said: “It’s heart breaking to see seven, eight and nine year olds appealing to the government to provide proper funding for children who are going hungry and are terrified during the holidays.

“Cutting youth services is a false economy and is contributing to increased crime, youth violence and child exploitation. Our Summer Give campaign doubles all donations to provide a lifeline for London’s poorest kids, funding projects to help keep over 10,000 kids safe, well fed and engaged in fun activities throughout the holidays.”

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During the Summer Give campaign, the trust will raise funds for 44 charities supporting disadvantaged children this summer and match all donations while match funds last.

The Summer Holiday Manifesto

  • Children should never go hungry during the holidays (or at any other time)
  • Children should never be left on their own all day if their parent(s) have to work
  • All children should have a holiday club to go to where there are free, fun activities and hot meals
  • All children should feel that they can play outside without threat or intimidation from gangs or other children
  • The police should be able to keep children safe during the holidays
  • Local MPs should volunteer at their local holiday club so children know who their MP is and can tell them what needs to change
  • The government should fund local authorities to universally provide these things for all children