This is a cross post from a blog I wrote for work at Any Other Business
Jezza Neumann’s excellent documentary, ‘Poor Kids’, is a moving and timely investigation into the lives that Britain’s 3.5 million poor children lead. Sam, Courtney and Paige are poignant examples of the fact that – despite promises being made by government after government – poverty continues to blight families in the UK.
As the cameras followed these three articulate young people moping about at home, playing in the park and celebrating their birthdays, viewers could be forgiven, at times, for thinking that being a poor child isn’t that bad after all. As Page enthusiastically took the camera crew around her flat in the Gorbals – where 82% of kids live in poverty – to see the mould growing on the walls, she didn’t seem too depressed by it all. As Courtney played in the sand with her family, you almost felt that they were having a better time than if they’d been spending huge sums of money at Alton Towers.
The fact is, however, that life is much tougher for poorer children than their richer counterparts. They may have a smile on their face when they cut the mould out of the blinds in their bedroom, but this does little to hide the shocking fact that 85% of children living in damp conditions suffer breathing problems and 47% of kids with asthma are from the poorest 10% of families. Viewers of ‘Poor Kids’ are wrong to assume that smiling children don’t mask the hardships that they are facing.
The families in ‘Poor Kids’ are not atypical. The UK comes 18th out of 22 European countries ranked for child poverty and child poverty is set to rise by 11% over the next three years. The children in the programme had parents who were unemployed but the situation might not be much better even if they do find work. Given that 50% of poor children grow up in households with working parents the problems won’t be fixed by parents simply ‘getting a job’.
Neumann’s brilliant documentary portrays the bleak lives lived by an increasing number of children here in Britain but we must not forget that child poverty is not inevitable and not unavoidable.
To end child poverty in the UK, we need people to have jobs that pay Living Wages and allow them to support their families properly.
You can take action on Living Wages at www.fairpensions.org.uk/justpay